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Confronting Ethics of Pandemic Influenza Planning: 2008 Summit of the States

INDIANAPOLIS Public health professionals from across the country will convene July 14-15 in Indianapolis for a national summit on ethical and policy issues faced by public health officials and the medical community while preparing for a large-scale epidemic.

"Confronting the Ethics of Pandemic Influenza Planning: The 2008 Summit of the States" is hosted by the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana University Center for Bioethics and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). The summit was paid for with some of the ISDH's preparedness funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"The purpose of the summit is to identify the key ethical challenges, share best practices and consider possible solutions faced by public health officials and the medical community during an influenza pandemic," said Indiana State Health Commissioner Judy Monroe, M.D. "It is critical for states to work together, in collaboration with the CDC, to address the ethical issues that must be confronted as we all plan for a possible influenza pandemic."

State health officers and other senior public health officials from more than 30 states and territories, as well as experts in law and ethics, will gather at the invitation-only event at the University Place Conference Center and Hotel on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

Dr. Monroe, who also is president-elect of ASTHO, and co-organizer Eric M. Meslin, Ph.D., director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics and associate dean for bioethics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, said epidemics on various scales have always been part of the human reality, but with the resources now available providers can be better prepared than ever.

"We know that there are several key issues that all states must address in one way or another from how to distribute potentially scarce medical supplies to priority decisions about availability of equipment, intensive care beds and methods to slow the spread of disease that should be identified and addressed before an adverse event would limit the time available to make ethical decisions," said Dr. Meslin. "This summit is designed to help state officials identify these issues and determine how best to tackle them. We hope that by meeting together, these leaders will learn from one another and develop joint strategies."

The two-day summit will combine open plenary sessions and small working groups undertaking the identification of ethical concerns and feasible solutions. A summary of the findings will be released at the conclusion of the summit during a news conference at noon July 15 at the conference center.

Opening remarks will be presented at 8:30 a.m. July 14 by Drs. Monroe and Meslin and David N. Sundwall, M.D., president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

The summit also will bring to Indianapolis key government leaders in health policy relating to pandemic influenza. Invited speakers include Admiral Joxel Garcia, M.D., assistant secretary of health, and Rear Admiral W. Craig Vanderwagen, M.D., assistant secretary for preparedness and response, both with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Rear Admiral James M. Galloway, M.D., assistant surgeon general, U.S. Public Health Service.

The luncheon speaker will be David Orentlicher, M.D., J.D., the Samuel R. Rosen Professor of Law and co-director of the Hall Center for Law and Health at the Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis, adjunct associate professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine, and a member of the Indiana House of Representatives.

The Summit group will reconvene on July 15 and present its findings to the public.


Contact: Mary Hardin
Indiana University

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