What should I do when PPE is limited?
How should I prioritise my family’s well-being and doing my job?
How do I work with resource scarcity?

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new clinical ethics challenges for clinicians. Public health considerations are shaping individual patient care. Situations of resource scarcity have brought fair allocation into the foreground of clinical practice. Clinicians’ personal risk of infection has generated difficult ethical challenges.

This online course aims to provide structured ways of navigating the clinical ethics challenges generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It incorporates short discussions of key ethical issues and concepts, with practical ethics tools for decision-making.

Designed For

Designed for clinicians in hospital settings and primary care. It is intended for medical, nursing and allied health staff. It would also be useful for students training for these health professions.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Clinical ethics principles
  2. What's different in a pandemic?
  3. Steps of ethical decision-making
  4. Balancing and moral regret
  5. Health resources in a pandemic
  6. Ethical criteria for resource allocation
  7. Fair process
  8. Duty to provide care
  9. Protecting health professionals
  10. Balancing health professionals' safety with the duty to provide care

Course Units

  • Tutorial 1: Clinical ethics - what's different in a pandemic?
  • Tutorial 2: Allocation of scarce resources
  • Tutorial 3: Health professionals' role

Skills and Knowledge

  • Use the steps of ethical decision-making to structure a challenging decision
  • Understand the nature of moral regret and moral distress, and productive responses to these experiences
  • Know the three key ethical considerations for resource allocation in a pandemic
  • Articulate the elements of a fair process when allocating resources and prioritising patients in a pandemic
  • Use a framework of questions to guide decision-making about ethically acceptable levels of protection for health professionals


The assessment is a submission of 3 self-assessments and 3 case studies. A Certificate of Completion is provided upon satisfactory completion of the course.

Delivery Mode

Course completion requires approximately ~3 hours of eLearning. This course is delivered online and students can study in their own time and location. Course materials can be accessed using a web browser.

Course Leaders

Dr Rosalind McDougall

Dr Rosalind McDougall

Senior Lecturer in Health Ethics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne

Dr Rosalind McDougall is an ethicist in the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne. Rosalind’s research and teaching focuses on the ethical challenges faced by health professionals. Her background is in philosophy and qualitative research, and she brings these ideas and approaches to the interdisciplinary analysis of issues in patient care. She has published widely in the fields of clinical ethics and reproductive ethics. Rosalind has been involved in providing clinical ethics support in hospitals since 2008, and she co-founded the Australasian Clinical Ethics Network.


Professor Clare Delany

Professor Clare Delany

Professor in Health Professions Education, Department of Medical Education, University of Melbourne; Clinical Ethicist, Children’s Bioethics Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital

Clare Delany is a professor in health professions education in the Department of Medical Education, Melbourne Medical School, at the University of Melbourne. She is a clinical ethicist at the Children’s Bioethics Centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital and a consultant clinical ethicist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. Clare researches and teaches in areas of critical thinking, clinical reasoning, paediatric bioethics and clinical ethics. In health professions education, Clare works closely with health professionals from a variety of disciplines to conduct education research relevant to their clinical contexts. In clinical ethics, Clare conducts both individual and committee-based clinical ethics consultations, supporting clinicians in ethical reasoning and deliberation.

Professor Lynn Gillam

Professor Lynn Gillam

Professor in Health Ethics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne; Academic Director, Children’s Bioethics Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital

Professor Lynn Gillam is an experienced clinical ethicist, originally trained in philosophy (MA, 1988, Oxon) and bioethics (PhD, Monash, 2000). She is a professor in the Centre for Health Equity in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, at the University of Melbourne. Lynn is also the Academic Director of the Children’s Bioethics Centre at the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. At RCH, Lynn has been involved in over 200 ethics consultations since 2005. She also provides policy advice and leads research into a range of issues in paediatric clinical ethics. Lynn teaches medical ethics in the MD curriculum, and ethics and qualitative research design in the MPH. She also supervises PhD, Masters and Honours students. Lynn has a long-standing research interest in human research ethics, and she is the Chair of the University’s Central Human Research Ethics Committee. Lynn is a member of a number of state and federal advisory bodies, including the Victorian Independent Medical Advisory Committee on Medicinal Cannabis and the NHMRC Clinical Ethics Working Group.

Dr Danielle Ko

Dr Danielle Ko

Palliative Care Specialist and Clinical Ethics Lead, Austin Health

Dr Danielle Ko trained as a lawyer and GP in Australia before completing fellowships in both medical ethics and palliative medicine in Boston, USA. Danielle’s area of expertise is in the intersection of medicine, law and clinical ethics as it relates to everyday clinical practice, as well as at the end of life. Danielle is a palliative care consultant at Austin Health, the Clinician Engagement Lead for the Quality and Safety Department, and the Clinical Ethics Lead for the institution. In her latter role, Danielle is helping to establish decision-making and ethics-support frameworks and processes to support hospital staff in their pandemic-related clinical and non-clinical decision making.

Contact Us

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E: mobile-learning@unimelb.edu.au

T: +61 3 8344 5673

Course Information


Course Fee: Free This course is free for the public.



Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements for this course.