Health Care Professionals and Bedbugs: An Ethical Analysis of a Resurgent Scourge
- 455 Downloads
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.
KeywordsHealth 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.
- Anderson, A. L., & Leffler, K. (2008). Bedbug infestations in the News: A picture of an emerging public health problem in the United States. Journal of Environmental Health, 70(9), 24–27.Google Scholar
- Canadian Medical Association. (2004). CMA code of ethics. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Medical Association.Google Scholar
- Canadian Nurses’ Association. (2008). Code of ethics for registered nurses. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Nurses Association.Google Scholar
- CBC News. (2009). Bedbugs in Vancouver spread by landlord inaction: Tenants. West End couple’s apartment treated several times without success. Retrieved December 1, 2012 from http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2009/03/30/bc-bedbugs.html.
- CBC News. (2010). Montreal slow to fine ‘slumlord’. Officials worry fines will hamper the sale of building to a non-profit group. Retrieved December 1, 2012 from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2010/08/16/qc-mtl-reluctant-fine-owner.html.
- CBC News. (2012). Bedbug infestation shuts rehab center. Retrieved July 16, 2012 from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/story/2012/01/13/homeless-bedbugs.html.
- Eddy, C., & Jones, S. C. (2011a). Bedbugs, public health and social justice: Part 1, a call to action. Journal of Environmental Health, 73(8), 8–14.Google Scholar
- Eddy, C., & Jones, S. C. (2011b). Bedbugs, public health and social justice: Part 2, an opinion survey. Journal of Environmental Health, 73(8), 15–17.Google Scholar
- Freedman, B. (1990). Is there a duty to provide medical care to HIV-infectious patient? Facts, fallacies, fairness, and the future. Canadian Family Physician, 36, 479–482.Google Scholar
- Jacobson, J. B., Wheeler, K., Hoffman, R., Mitchell, Y., Beckman, J., Mehier, L., et al. (2011). Acute illnesses associated with insecticides used to control bed bugs—seven states, 2003–2010. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention MMWR, 60(37), 1269–1274.Google Scholar
- Leininger-Hogan, S. (2011). Bedbugs in the intensive care units. Critical Care Nursing Quarterly, 34(2), 150–153.Google Scholar
- Perron, S., King, N., Lajoie, L., & Jacques, L. (2010). Les punaises de lit: retours vers le futur. Institut national de santé public du Québec, Bulletin d’information en santé environnementales (Janvier).Google Scholar
- Potter, M. F. (2011). The history of bed bug management—with lessons from the past. American Entomologist, 57(1), 14–25.Google Scholar
- Potter, M. F., Rosenberg, B., & Henriksen, M. (2010). Bugs without borders: Defining the global bed bugs resurgence. Pestworld, Sept/Oct, 8–20.Google Scholar
- Sim, J., & Purtilo, R. B. (1991). An ethical analysis of physical therapists’ duty to treat persons who have AIDS: Homosexuel patients as a test case. Physical Therapy, 71, 650–655.Google Scholar
- Sokol, D. K. (2006). Virulent epidemics and scope of healthcare workers’ duty of care. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 12(8), 1238.Google Scholar
- Upshur, R. E. G. (2002). Principles for the justification of public health intervention. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 93(2), 101–103.Google Scholar