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Hastings Center Report

What Has Covid-19 Exposed in Bioethics? Four Myths

Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed four myths in bioethics. First, the flood of bioethics publications on how to allocate scarce resources in crisis conditions has assumed authorities would declare the onset of crisis standards of care, yet few have done so. This leaves guidelines in limbo and patients unprotected. Second, the pandemic’s realities have exploded traditional boundaries between clinical, research, and public health ethics, requiring bioethics to face the interdigitation of learning, doing, and allocating. Third, without empirical research, the success or failure of ethics guidelines remains unknown, demonstrating that crafting ethics guidance is only the start. And fourth, the pandemic’s glaring health inequities require new commitment to learn from communities facing extraordinary challenges. Without that new learning, bioethics methods cannot succeed. The pandemic is a wake-up call, and bioethics must rise to the challenge.

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