Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 735–752

On the Spot Ethical Decision-Making in CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological or Nuclear Event) Response

Approaches to on the Spot Ethical Decision-Making for First Responders to Large-Scale Chemical Incidents
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11948-014-9520-5

Cite this article as:
Rebera, A.P. & Rafalowski, C. Sci Eng Ethics (2014) 20: 735. doi:10.1007/s11948-014-9520-5


First responders to chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) events face decisions having significant human consequences. Some operational decisions are supported by standard operating procedures, yet these may not suffice for ethical decisions. Responders will be forced to weigh their options, factoring-in contextual peculiarities; they will require guidance on how they can approach novel (indeed unique) ethical problems: they need strategies for “on the spot” ethical decision making. The primary aim of this paper is to examine how first responders should approach on the spot ethical decision-making amid the stress and uncertainty of a CBRN event. Drawing on the long-term professional CBRN experience of one of the authors, this paper sets out a series of practical ethical dilemmas potentially arising in the context of a large-scale chemical incident. We propose a broadly consequentialist approach to on the spot ethical decision-making, but one which incorporates ethical values and rights as “side-constraints”.


Autonomy CBRN Chemical incident Consequentialism Decision-making Ethics 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Science, Society and CitizenshipRomeItaly
  2. 2.Magen David AdomTel AvivIsrael

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