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The Development of a Humanitarian Health Ethics Analysis Tool

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2015

Veronique Fraser*
Centre for Clinical Ethics, St-Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Matthew R. Hunt
School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Sonya de Laat
Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
Lisa Schwartz
Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Correspondence: Veronique Fraser, RN, MSc Centre for Clinical Ethics St-Joseph’s Health Centre 30 The Queensway Toronto, Ontario M6R 1B5 Canada E-mail:



Health care workers (HCWs) who participate in humanitarian aid work experience a range of ethical challenges in providing care and assistance to communities affected by war, disaster, or extreme poverty. Although there is increasing discussion of ethics in humanitarian health care practice and policy, there are very few resources available for humanitarian workers seeking ethical guidance in the field. To address this knowledge gap, a Humanitarian Health Ethics Analysis Tool (HHEAT) was developed and tested as an action-oriented resource to support humanitarian workers in ethical decision making.

While ethical analysis tools increasingly have become prevalent in a variety of practice contexts over the past two decades, very few of these tools have undergone a process of empirical validation to assess their usefulness for practitioners.


A qualitative study consisting of a series of six case-analysis sessions with 16 humanitarian HCWs was conducted to evaluate and refine the HHEAT.


Participant feedback inspired the creation of a simplified and shortened version of the tool and prompted the development of an accompanying handbook.


The study generated preliminary insight into the ethical deliberation processes of humanitarian health workers and highlighted different types of ethics support that humanitarian workers might find helpful in supporting the decision-making process.

FraserV, HuntMR, de LaatS, SchwartzL. The Development of a Humanitarian Health Ethics Analysis Tool. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2015;30(4):19.

Original Research
© World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine 2015 

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