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Triage, terrorism and translational ethics
  1. Michael Ardagh
  1. Correspondence to Professor Michael Ardagh, Emergency Department, University of Otago Christchurch, Emergency Department, Christchurch Hospital, Private Bag 4710, Christchurch 8000, New Zealand; Michael.ardagh{at}

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In biomedicine ‘translational research’ describes scholarship amenable to direct translation into better healthcare. At the turn of this millennium, Kagarise and Sheldon1 suggested that the same translational quality should be expected of ethics scholarship—‘translational ethics.’ Nine years later Cribb2 coherently argued the strengths and risks of ethics scholarship directly contributing to changes in care or policy. He questioned the concept but concluded; “It forces us to consider what it is we think we are doing when we do medical ethics scholarship and in particular what, if any, relationship this scholarship has to practice”.

In this edition of the Journal, Gold and Straus3 argue that, during terrorist inflicted mass casualty incidents, triage should be modified so that victims are given priority for medical care before any injured terrorists. The authors argue this from a variety of perspectives of justice, and they address many of the challenges to their arguments, including for example, that the threshold of badness of the event should be limited to terrorist events to avoid a ‘slippery slope’ of value judgements influencing access to care. The reader might question whether their foundation argument is sufficient, or whether they have adequately addressed the challenges, but …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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