Lockdowns, Bioethics, and the Public: Policy‐Making in a Liberal Democracy

Hastings Center Report 53 (6):11-17 (2023)
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[OPEN ACCESS] Commentaries on the ethics of Covid lockdowns nearly all focus on offering substantive guidance to policy‐makers. Lockdowns, however, raise many ethical questions that admit of a range of reasonable answers. In such cases, policy‐making in a liberal democracy ought to be sensitive to which reasonable views the public actually holds—a topic existing bioethical work on lockdowns has not explored in detail. In this essay, I identify several important questions connected to the kind of influence the public ought to have on lockdown decision‐making, including how policy‐makers ought to handle misinformed or morally suspect viewpoints, and how policy‐makers ought to respond to minority viewpoints. I argue that questions like this, concerning the appropriate influence of the public on decision‐making, will be central to the field of bioethics as it increasingly focuses on policy and population‐level issues and therefore ought to be priorities for future work.



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S. Andrew Schroeder
Claremont McKenna College

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