Latin American healthcare systems in times of pandemic

Sergio G. Litewka, Elizabeth Heitman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The COVID- 19 pandemic is a critical test for the already overburdened and mostly underfunded public healthcare systems of Latin America. In a region that suffers from severe inequalities, public healthcare systems are the only source of medical care for a large sector of the population who work in the informal economy or are unemployed. State-run hospitals and clinics are already overstressed by continuous demand for treatment of vector-borne diseases and community-acquired infections as well as high rates of non-communicable diseases. Ideological misconceptions and denial among Latin America’s political leaders prevented timely preparations for the pandemic and added to chronic governance problems. As ethical expertise in Latin America focuses on research ethics, few hospitals in the region have functioning clinical ethics committees or clinical ethics policy, forcing healthcare personnel to make excruciating treatment decisions in an environment dominated by material scarcity and public distrust. This essay examines the emergence of COVID-19 in Latin America and the serious challenge that it poses for Latin America's public healthcare systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-73
Number of pages5
JournalDeveloping World Bioethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Latin American public healthcare systems
  • health care
  • inequalities
  • resource allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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