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Public Health Ethics and Covid-19: The ethical dimensions of public health decision-making during a pandemic

Authors Jan-Christoph Heilinger
Alison Thompson
Verina Wild
Angela Ballantyne
Nancy Berlinger
Ryoa Chung
Lisa Eckenwiler
Hans-Jörg Ehni
Agomoni Ganguli-Mitra
Samia Hurst
Els Maeckelberghe
Georg Marckmann
Christian Munthe
Annette Rid
Peter Schröder-Bäck
Daniel Strech
Sridhar Venkatapuram
Publisher Kompetenznetz Public Health COVID-19
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science
Language en
Links https://www.public-health-covid19.d...
Keywords Covid19, public health, bioethics, ethics, health policy
Subject categories Infectious Medicine, Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy, Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Medical Ethics, Ethics, Practical philosophy


The Covid-19 pandemic forces policy makers and public health authorities to make ethically challenging decisions, often under conditions of uncertainty and under time pressure. In times of pandemics, ethical accountability is more important, not less. Understanding and handling of ethical problems require grounding in ethical theory and decision models, in combination with relevant facts from medicine, public health, law, economics, politics, etc. The perspective of public health ethics includes considerations from all ethical domains of relevance in a pandemic situation. This foundational policy brief provides an overview of the fundamental ethical dimensions of public health decision-making in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. It references important existing ethical frameworks, some of which are based on extensive stakeholder vetting and public consultation. Its goal is to support decision-making that is justified and communicated as required by basic democratic principles and in the light of diverse values and norms present in democratic societies. These, however, may conflict with one another, making difficult trade-offs inevitable. Further policy briefs on specific topics will be consecutively developed by this ethics working group, including on ethical decision-making in policy and practice under conditions of uncertainty, ethics of vaccination, ethics of Covid-19-related contract-tracing apps, ethics of Covid-19 and age, ethics of experimental treatment, refugee health ethics and Covid-19.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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