Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training

Ben decides to call Dr. Polyakova and offer her a mask.  Click image to start video.

CASE 2: Ensuring Personal Safety

Vignette 2: Ben discusses the issue with his advisors at his home institution and his local supervisor. All agree that, in this case, it is best for Ben to wear his N95 mask to protect himself from acquiring TB even though by doing so those around him immediately recognize him as an outsider. However, by discussing the issue openly, the collaboration was not threatened.

Feeling relieved, Ben then realizes he has more than enough N95 masks for his time at the prison. He is considering donating them to others working with the prisoners. He recognizes that N95 masks cannot be shared effectively due to the specifics of individual fitting. It is important to note that packs or donated
medical supplies can often be confiscated at borders if appropriate procedures are not observed.

When Ben is deciding to whom he should give his spare N95 masks, what is the main ethical principle involved?

Beneficence is the principle that relates to promoting the wellbeing of others. Although Ben is trying to promote others’ wellbeing, this is not the main issue. Choose a different answer.
Non-maleficence is the principle that relates to protecting others from harm. For example, Ben has a responsibility to let colleagues know that an ill-fitting mask is not fully protective. This could do harm if the colleague felt unrealistically protected. Although Ben is trying to protect his local colleagues from harm, this is not the main issue in selecting who gets the masks. Choose a different answer.
This is correct. When Ben is helping determine who will receive the N95 masks, this is an issue of justice (more specifically, distributive justice). For those involved in short-term training experiences abroad, recognizing even day-to-day decisions that bring up issues of distributive justice is important.
Autonomy is the principle that relates to individuals making their own decisions. This is not the main issue in this case. Choose a different answer.


© Stanford University Center for Global Health and the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Project funding provided by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF)