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Ethics and Pandemic Policies: Democracy in Crisis

Ethics guidance during the Covid-19 pandemic has been valuable in informing some health policies and practices, such as oversight of research and crisis standards of care. But it has been less effective in addressing broader questions about how we should live together in this and future pandemics. A recent Hastings Center report suggested that a key barrier to developing ethically informed health policies on major societal questions is the erosion of social cohesion driven by a lack of trust of both institutions and individuals.

The Hastings Center and Epidemic Ethics, a global community of bioethicists led by the World Health Organization, hosted an online seminar on January 31 that explored the role restoring societal decision-making capabilities in order to rebuild trust and social cohesion and shape ethics-informed pandemic policies and responses. Hastings Center President Mildred Solomon led the discussion with speakers including Michael Gusmano, a Hastings Center research scholar and a professor at Lehigh University; Bruce Jennings, a Hastings Center senior advisor and an associate professor at Vanderbilt University; and Eduardo J. Gomez, director of the Institute for Health Policy and Politics at Lehigh. Watch a recording.  

The following questions formed the seminar’s panel discussion:

  1. How can ethics be bought into the public sphere to restore trust and confidence in policymakers, and encourage civic participation in decision-making and pandemic policy development?
  2. How should we develop ethically-informed pandemic policies in contexts of societal distrust and polarized perspectives?

Background Reading

Kaebnick, Gregory E., Gusmano, Michael, Jennings, Bruce, Neuhaus, Carolyn P., Solomon, Mildred Z. (2021). Civic Learning for a Democracy in Crisis. In Democracy in Crisis: Civic Learning and the Reconstruction of Common Purpose, ed. Gregory E. Kaebnick et al., special report, The Hastings Center Report, 51(1): S2-S4. DOI: 10.1002/hast.1221.

Full report here: Kaebnick, Gregory E., Gusmano, Michael, Jennings, Bruce, Neuhaus, Carolyn P., Solomon, Mildred Z. (2021). Democracy in Crisis: Civic Learning and the Reconstruction of Common Purpose. The Hastings Center Report, 51(1). DOI: 10.1002/hast.1221.

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