AMA J Ethics. 2022 Oct 1;24(10):E944-950. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2022.944.
This case and commentary canvasses clinical, ethical, and public health considerations about integrated infection control and sustainability efforts of biocontainment units (BCUs). BCUs protect the public’s health during infectious disease outbreaks, including accounting for downstream health costs of byproducts of patient care that leave a system as waste. However, environmental costs of BCUs’ operations tend to get less attention than BCUs’ specialized design to contain and control highly infectious pathogens. Human health promotion and environmental protection are values that sometimes complement each other but sometimes conflict in BCU management. When these values conflict, stakeholders must mediate and balance their implications in terms of individuals’ immediate short’ and long’term needs for health care, public interest in pathogen control and containment, and environmental impact.