A cross-sectional survey of Australian and New Zealand public opinion on methods to triage intensive care patients in an influenza pandemic

Winston Cheung*, John Myburgh, Shay McGuinness, Debra Chalmers, Rachael Parke, Fiona Blyth, Ian Seppelt, Michael Parr, Claire Hooker, Nikki Blackwell, Shannon DeMonte, Kalpesh Gandhi, Mark Kol, Ian Kerridge, Priya Nair, Nicholas M. Saunders, Manoj K. Saxena, Govindasamy Thanakrishnan, Vasi Naganathan, Influenza Pandemic ICU Triage 3 study investigatorsAustralian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Clinical Trials Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background and objective: An influenza pandemic has the potential to overwhelm intensive care resources, but the views of the general public on how resources should be allocated in such a scenario were unknown. We aimed to determine Australian and New Zealand public opinion on how intensive care unit beds should be allocated during an influenza pandemic.

Design, setting, and participants: A postal questionnaire was sent to 4000 randomly selected registered voters; 2000 people each from the Australian Electoral Commission and New Zealand Electoral Commission rolls.

Main outcome measure: The respondents' preferred method to triage ICU patients in an influenza pandemic. Respondents chose from six methods: use a "first in, first served" approach; allow a senior doctor to decide; use pre-determined health department criteria; use random selection; use the patient's ability to pay; use the importance of the patient to decide. Respondents also rated each of the triage methods for fairness.

Results: Australian respondents preferred that patients be triaged to the ICU either by a senior doctor (43.2%) or by pre-determined health department criteria (38.7%). New Zealand respondents preferred that triage be performed by a senior doctor (45.9%). Respondents from both countries perceived triage by a senior doctor and by pre-determined health department criteria to be fair, and the other four methods of triage to be unfair.

Conclusion: In an influenza pandemic, when ICU resources would be overwhelmed, survey respondents preferred that ICU triage be performed by a senior doctor, but also perceived the use of pre-determined triage criteria to be fair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-265
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Care and Resuscitation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017

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