The Ethics of Pandemics
  • Publication Date: July 23, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554815449 / 1554815444
  • 160 pages; 6" x 9"

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The Ethics of Pandemics

  • Publication Date: July 23, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781554815449 / 1554815444
  • 160 pages; 6" x 9"

A portion of the revenue from this book’s sales will be donated to Doctors Without Borders to assist in the fight against COVID-19.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on modern health-care systems and has given rise to a number of complex ethical issues. This collection of readings and case studies offers an overview of some of the most pressing of these issues, such as the allocation of ventilators and other scarce resources, the curtailing of standard privacy measures for the sake of public health, and the potential obligations of health-care professionals to continue operating in dangerous work environments.

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“An excellent collection of informative and thought-provoking articles on pandemic ethics, with a focus on COVID-19. The reader is invited to reflect on the rights and wrongs of unprecedented actions taken (or contemplated) by governments, businesses, health-care providers, researchers, and citizens. These are brought into sharp focus in a series of cases studies that highlight obstacles and opportunities.” — Françoise Baylis, University Research Professor, Dalhousie University

“This collection is essential reading for everyone concerned about ethics during a pandemic. The essays are clear and accessible, and the editor provides helpful introductions and keyword glossaries for students. This volume is perfect for the classroom. Highly recommended.” — Kelly Oliver, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

“Meredith Schwartz’s edited volume is a ‘must-have’ for anyone interested in the ethics of pandemics. This timely collection is perfect for university students and teachers, curating a set of powerful yet accessible articles organized around what have emerged to be the core ethical themes of pandemics. Schwartz has included insightful chapter introductions and reflection questions, ensuring that this text will remain relevant for decades to come.” — G.K.D. Crozier, Canada Research Chair and Professor, Laurentian University

“An ethical guide to navigating the difficult choices faced by health care professionals, politicians, economists, researchers, and ordinary citizens during the coronavirus pandemic. Pandemics provoke an astonishing array of ethical dilemmas, and the essays and case studies here are ideal for classroom discussions and dinner table debates.” — Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

The Ethics of Pandemics includes readings from a stellar international panel of experts. I am particularly impressed with the range of perspectives on social justice problems laid bare by the virus: our inadequate protection of the elderly, the exclusion of people with disabilities, and the significantly worse health consequences for the less privileged. You need to read and discuss this book.” — Laura Shanner, Applied Ethics Educator, Vancouver Island University


Chapter 1 Public Health Ethics

  • 1.1 John Authers, How Coronavirus Is Shaking Up the Moral Universe: The Pandemic Is Putting Profound Philosophical Questions to the Test
  • 1.2 Nuala P. Kenny, Susan B. Sherwin, and Françoise E. Baylis, Re-visioning Public Health Ethics: A Relational Perspective
  • Questions for Reflection

Chapter 2 Professional Responsibilities

  • 2.1 Udo Schuklenk, Health Care Professionals Are under No Ethical Obligation to Treat COVID-19 Patients
  • 2.2 Abbey Lowe, Angela Hewlett, and Toby Schonfeld, How Should Clinicians Respond to International Public Health Emergencies?
  • 2.3 Seth Holmes and Liza Buchbinder, In a Defunded Health System, Doctors and Nurses Suffer Near-Impossible Conditions
  • Case Study: Health Care without PPE
  • Questions for Reflection

Chapter 3 Public Adherence

  • 3.1 Tom Douglas, Flouting Quarantine
  • 3.2 Charles M. Blow, Social Distancing Is a Privilege: The Idea that This Virus Is an Equal-Opportunity Killer Must Itself Be Killed
  • Case Study: Going to a Park
  • Questions for Reflection

Chapter 4 Scarce Resource Allocation

  • 4.1 Ezekiel J. Emanuel et al., Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of COVID-19
  • 4.2 Angela Ballantyne, ICU Triage: How Many Lives or Whose Lives?
  • 4.3 Jackie Leach Scully, Disablism in a Time of Pandemic
  • 4.4 Joseph J. Fins, Disabusing the Disability Critique of the New York State Task Force Report on Ventilator Allocation
  • 4.5 Franklin G. Miller, Why I Support Age-Related Rationing of Ventilators for COVID-19 Patients
  • 4.6 Shai Held, The Staggering, Heartless Cruelty toward the Elderly: A Global Pandemic Doesn’t Give Us Cause to Treat the Aged Callously
  • Case Study: Ventilator Shortages: Who Should Live?
  • Questions for Reflection

Chapter 5 Justice

  • 5.1 Shaun Ossei-Owusu, Coronavirus and the Politics of Disposability
  • 5.2 Alex Broadbent and Benjamin T.H. Smart, Why a One- Size-Fits-All Approach to COVID-19 Could Have Lethal Consequences
  • Case Study: Staying in Business
  • Questions for Reflection

Chapter 6 Research Ethics

  • 6.1 Julian Savulescu, Is It Right to Cut Corners in the Search for a Coronavirus Cure?
  • 6.2 Nir Eyal, Marc Lipsitch, and Peter G. Smith, Human Challenge Studies to Accelerate Coronavirus Vaccine Licensure
  • 6.3 Kelly McBride Folkers and Arthur Caplan, False Hope about Coronavirus Treatments
  • Case Study: Ethics and Global Research Programs
  • Questions for Reflection

Chapter 7 Surveillance and Privacy

  • 7.1 Derek Thompson, The Technology that Could Free America from Quarantine
  • 7.2 Maciej Cegłowski, We Need a Massive Surveillance Program
  • 7.3 Sean McDonald, Coronavirus: A Digital Governance Emergency of International Concern
  • Case Study: Physician-Patient Privilege vs. Public Health Policy
  • Questions for Reflection

Chapter 8 Reopening

  • 8.1 Arthur Caplan, The Price of Going Back to Work Too Soon
  • 8.2 Conor Friedersdorf, Take the Shutdown Skeptics Seriously
  • 8.3 Daniel Weinstock, A Harm Reduction Approach to Physical Distancing
  • 8.4 Anthony Skelton and Lisa Forsberg, Mandating Vaccination
  • Case Study: Choosing Not to Vaccinate
  • Questions for Reflection

Permissions Acknowledgments

Meredith Celene Schwartz has taught health-care ethics and philosophy courses at Dalhousie University and Ryerson University. She is the author of Moral Respect, Objectification, and Health Care, co-author of Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia, and co-editor of Readings in Health Care Ethics, 3rd Edition.

  • • A royalty on this book’s sales will be paid to Doctors without Borders to assist in the fight against COVID-19.
  • • A concise overview of several key ethical issues relating to pandemics, including:
    • o Professional Responsibilities
    • o Scarce Resource Allocation
    • o Research Ethics
    • o Justice
    • o Surveillance and Privacy
  • • Useful as a supplement for ethical issues or health care ethics courses.
  • • Includes a mix of academic literature, original case studies, editorials, and blog posts.
  • • Illustrates the varied issues and arguments arising from the spread of COVID-19.
  • • Includes a general introduction, brief introductions to each topic, and discussion questions.
  • • A companion website provides links to a curated selection of further readings.

This book has a companion website providing links to additional readings. The site will be updated regularly to reflect developments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

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