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How to make ethical decisions related to infection prevention and control, from APIC and IPAC Canada

Toolkit offers systematic process to approach difficult issues

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) and Infection Prevention and Control Canada (IPAC Canada) have partnered on the creation of a new resource to help healthcare professionals work through ethical issues that arise in infection prevention and control (IPC) and assist in making complex decisions.

Published on both the APIC and IPAC Canada websites, the Ethical Infection Prevention and Control (EIPAC) Decision-Making Framework illustrates how to identify and apply relevant, ethical decision-making principles to the practice of IPC. The new toolkit outlines a step-by-step process for tackling difficult situations and provides a set of scenarios to illustrate how the framework can be applied.

We hope the EIPAC Decision-Making Framework will help IPC teams approach difficult issues, especially when there is uncertainty on how to proceed. The guide can be particularly helpful where a values conflict or moral tension exists, or where options exist that could pose a risk of harm to patients, residents, visitors, or staff.

IPAC Canada President Colette Ouellet, RN, BN, MHA, CRM, CIC

An example presented in the guide involves whether to cancel a nursing home resident’s 100-year birthday party due to a norovirus outbreak on the unit. The exercise shows how to identify the facts, determine the relevant values and principles, explore the options, and ultimately make a decision that demonstrates respect for the resident while also minimizing risk of disease transmission.

This has been a great collaboration between our two organizations. The new guide is grounded in values that both APIC and IPAC Canada hold as fundamental to ethical IPC practice, and it provides a framework for ethical decision making that is systematic, fair, and transparent.

2024 APIC President Tania Bubb, PhD, RN, CIC, FAPIC

Developed by Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre with healthcare partners in North Toronto, the EIPAC framework was adapted based on an existing ethical framework developed by the Community Ethics Network and the subsequent work of the University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics and Trillium Health Partners.

The APIC/IPAC-Canada Ethical Infection Prevention and Control (EIPAC) Decision-Making Framework is available on either organization’s website.