COVID-19 and Biomedical Experts: When Epistemic Authority is (Probably) Not Enough

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 19 (1):135-142 (2022)
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Abstract

This critical essay evaluates the potential integration of distinct kinds of expertise in policymaking, especially during situations of critical emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This article relies on two case studies: herd immunity and restricted access to ventilators for disabled people. These case studies are discussed as examples of experts’ recommendations that have not been widely accepted, though they were made within the boundaries of expert epistemic authority. While the fundamental contribution of biomedical experts in devising public health policies during the COVID-19 pandemic is fully recognized, this paper intends to discuss potential issues and limitations that may arise when adopting a strict expert-based approach. By drawing attention to the interests of minorities, the paper also claims a broader notion of “relevant expertise.” This critical essay thus calls for the necessity of wider inclusiveness and representativeness in the process underlying public health policymaking.

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