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INTRODUCTION OR BACKGROUND: Antibiotic resistance raises ethical issues due to the severe and inequitably distributed consequences caused by individual actions and policies. SOURCES OF DATA: Synthesis of ethical, scientific and clinical literature. AREAS OF AGREEMENT: Ethical analyses have focused on the moral responsibilities of patients to complete antibiotic courses, resistance as a tragedy of the commons and attempts to limit use through antibiotic stewardship. AREAS OF CONTROVERSY: Each of these analyses has significant limitations and can result in self-defeating or overly narrow implications for policy. GROWING POINTS: More complex analyses focus on ethical implications of ubiquitous asymptomatic carriage of resistant bacteria, non-linear outcomes within and between patients over time and global variation in resistant disease burdens. AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH: Neglected topics include the harms of antibiotic use, including off-target effects on the human microbiome, and the lack of evidence guiding most antibiotic prescription decisions.

Original publication




Journal article


Br Med Bull

Publication Date





4 - 14


antimicrobial resistance, bioethics, drug resistance, justice, stewardship, tragedy of the commons, Anti-Bacterial Agents, Drug Resistance, Microbial, Humans, Morals