HEC Forum

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 245–255 | Cite as

Health Care Professionals and Bedbugs: An Ethical Analysis of a Resurgent Scourge

  • Maude Laliberté
  • Matthew Hunt
  • Bryn Williams-Jones
  • Debbie Ehrmann Feldman


Many health care professionals (HCPs) are understandably reluctant to treat patients in environments infested with bedbugs, in part due to the risk of themselves becoming bedbug vectors to their own homes and workplaces. However, bedbugs are increasingly widespread in care settings, such as nursing homes, as well as in private homes visited by HCPs, leading to increased questions of how health care organizations and their staff ought to respond. This situation is associated with a range of ethical considerations including the duty of care, stigmatization, vulnerability, confidentiality, risks for third parties, and professional autonomy. In this article, we analyze these issues using a case study approach. We consider how patients whose living environments are infested with bedbugs can receive care in the community setting in a manner that supports their well-being, is consistent with fairness in care provision, and takes into account risks for HCPs and third parties. We also discuss limits and obstacles to the provision of care in these situations.


Health care professionals Bedbugs Equity Disclosure Duty of care Confidentiality Vulnerability 



The authors thanks Jason Behrmann and Vardit Ravitsky for their helpful comments on a drafts of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maude Laliberté
    • 1
    • 2
  • Matthew Hunt
    • 3
    • 4
  • Bryn Williams-Jones
    • 1
  • Debbie Ehrmann Feldman
    • 5
  1. 1.Programmes de bioéthique, Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Faculté de médecineUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  2. 2.École de réadaptationUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in RehabilitationMontrealCanada
  4. 4.School of Physical and Occupational TherapyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  5. 5.Faculté de médecine, École de réadaptationUniversité de MontréalMontrealCanada

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