In this paper I argue that bioethics is in crisis and that it will not have a future unless it begins to embrace a more Socratic approach to its leading assumptions. The absence of a critical and sceptical spirit has resulted in little more than a dominant ideology. I focus on three key issues. First, that too often bioethics collapses into medical ethics. Second, that medical ethics itself is beset by a lack of self-reflection that I characterize here as a (...) commitment to three dogmas. Third, I offer a more positive perspective by suggesting how bioethics may benefit from looking towards public health ethics as a new source of inspiration and direction. (shrink)
In these twelve papers notable ethicists use the resources of ethical theory to illuminate important theoretical and practical topics, including the nature of public health, notions of community, population bioethics, the legitimate role of law, the use of cost-effectiveness as a methodology, vaccinations, and the nature of infectious disease.
Machine generated contents note: Preface; Introduction Angus Dawson; Part I. Concepts: 1. Resetting the parameters: public health as the foundation for public health ethics Angus Dawson; 2. Health, disease and the goal of public health Bengt Brülde; 3. Selective reproduction, eugenics and public health Stephen Wilkinson; 4. Risk and precaution Stephen John; Part II. Issues: 5. Smoking, health and ethics Richard Ashcroft; 6. Infectious disease control Marcel Verweij; 7. Population screening Ainsley Newson; 8. Vaccination ethics Angus Dawson; 9. Environment, ethics (...) and public health: the climate change dilemma Anthony Kessel and Carolyn Stephens; 10. Public health research ethics: is non-exploitation the new principle for population-based research ethics? John McMillan; 11. Equity and population health: toward a broader bioethics agenda Norman Daniels; 12. Health inequities James Wilson; Index. (shrink)
A number of ethical frameworks have been proposed to support decision-making in public health and the evaluation of public health policy and practice. This is encouraging, since ethical considerations are of paramount importance in health policy. However, these frameworks have various deficiencies, in part because they incorporate substantial ethical positions. In this article, we discuss and criticise a framework developed by James Childress and Ruth Bernheim, which we consider to be the state of the art in the field. Their framework (...) distinguishes aims, such as the promotion of public health, from constraints on the pursuit of those aims, such as the requirement to avoid limitations to liberty, or the requirement to be impartial. We show how this structure creates both theoretical and practical problems. We then go on to present and defend a more practical framework, one that is neutral in avoiding precommitment to particular values and how they ought to be weighted. We believe ethics is at the very heart of such weightings and our framework is developed to reflect this belief. It is therefore both pluralist and value-based. We compare our new framework to Childress and Bernheim’s and outline its advantages. It is justified by its impetus to consider a wide range of alternatives and its tendency to direct decisions towards the best alternatives, as well as by the information provided by the ranking of alternatives and transparent explication of the judgements that motivate this ranking. The new framework presented should be useful to decision-makers in public health, as well as being a means to stimulate further reflection on the role of ethics in public health. (shrink)
On March, 24, 2020, 818 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in New South Wales, Australia, and new cases were increasing at an exponential rate. In anticipation of resource constraints arising in clinical settings as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a working party of ten ethicists was convened at the University of Sydney to draft an ethics framework to support resource allocation decisions. The framework guides decision-makers using a question-and-answer format, in language that avoids philosophical and medical technicality. The (...) working party met five times over the following week and then submitted a draft Framework for consideration by two groups of intensivists and one group of academic ethicists. It was also presented to a panel on a national current affairs programme. The Framework was then revised on the basis of feedback from these sources and made publicly available online on April 3, ten days after the initial meeting. The framework is published here in full to stimulate ongoing discussion about rapid development of user-friendly clinical ethics resources in ongoing and future pandemics. (shrink)
The Médecins Sans Frontières ethics review board has been solicited in an unprecedented way to provide advice and review research protocols in an ‘emergency’ mode during the recent Ebola epidemic. Twenty-seven Ebola-related study protocols were reviewed between March 2014 and August 2015, ranging from epidemiological research, to behavioural research, infectivity studies and clinical trials with investigational products at early development stages. This article examines the MSF ERB’s experience addressing issues related to both the process of review and substantive ethical issues (...) in this context. These topics include lack of policies regarding blood sample collection and use, and engaging communities regarding their storage and future use; exclusion of pregnant women from clinical and vaccine trials; and the difficulty of implementing timely and high-quality qualitative/anthropological research to consider potential upfront harms. Having noticed different standards across ethics committees, we propose that when multiple ethics reviews of clinical and vaccine trials are carried out during a public health emergency they should be accompanied by transparent communication between the ECs involved. The MSF ERB experience should trigger a broader discussion on the ‘optimal’ ethics review in an emergency outbreak and what enduring structural changes are needed to improve the ethics review process. (shrink)
How important is the concept of solidarity in our society's calculus of consent as regards the legitimacy and ethical and political support for public health, health policy, and health services? By the term “calculus of consent,” we refer to the answer that people give to rationalize and justify their obedience to laws, rules, and policies that benefit others. The calculus of consent answers questions such as, Why should I care? Why should I help? Why should I contribute to the public (...) provision of others? Consent here does not have to be a deliberate, explicit act of informed agreement. And a calculus does not have to be a quantifiable, quasimathematical operation; more often, such a calculus takes narrative form in stories that a society tells about itself and that individuals tell about their place in it. One vital function of bioethics is to inform and shape those stories. Bioethics has the potential to offer society a keener insight into and perception of what is ethically at stake in controversies concerning health, science, and society. This insight is what we shall refer to as a “moral imagination,” by which we do not mean make-believe or fantasy but, rather, the capacity to take a critical distance from the given, to think reality otherwise. The moral imagination enables one to see connections between factors at work in history, in large social and communal structures, and in the shape of one's own life, thoughts, and feelings. Here we are especially concerned with the contribution that the concept of solidarity can make to the moral imagination of bioethics. We contend that solidarity must become more widely active and explicit in bioethics analysis and argumentation as it endeavors to shape reasons for obeying norms and rules of common benefit in an open, diverse society. (shrink)
Background The world is threatened by future pandemics. Vaccines can play a key role in preventing harm, but there will inevitably be shortages because there is no possibility of advance stockpiling. We therefore need some method of prioritising access. Main text This paper reports a critical interpretative review of the published literature that discusses ethical arguments used to justify how we could prioritise vaccine during an influenza pandemic. We found that the focus of the literature was often on proposing different (...) groups as priorities. Different reasons were often suggested as a means of justifying such priority groupings. We suggest that much of the literature, wrongly, assumes that we are able to plan priority groups prior to the time of a particular pandemic and development of a particular vaccine. We also point out the surprising absence of various issues from the literature. Conclusions The literature proposes a wide range of ways to prioritise vaccines, focusing on different groups and ‘principles’. Any plan to use pandemic vaccine must provide justifications for its prioritisation. The focus of this review was influenza pandemic vaccines, but lessons can be learnt for future allocations of coronavirus vaccine, if one becomes available. (shrink)
During the WHO-GloPID COVID-19 Global Research and Innovation Forum meeting held in Geneva on the 11th and 12th of February 2020 a number of different ethical concepts were used. This paper briefly states what a number of these concepts mean and how they might be applied to discussions about research during the COVID-19 pandemic and related outbreaks. This paper does not seek to be exhaustive and other ethical concepts are, of course, relevant and important.
This paper explores the notion of reciprocity in the context of active pulmonary and laryngeal tuberculosis treatment and related control policies and practices. We seek to do three things: First, we sketch the background to contemporary global TB care and suggest that poverty is a key feature when considering the treatment of TB patients. We use two examples from TB care to explore the role of reciprocity: isolation and the use of novel TB drugs. Second, we explore alternative means of (...) justifying the use of reciprocity through appeal to different moral and political theoretical traditions. We suggest that each theory can be used to provide reasons to take reciprocity seriously as an independent moral concept, despite any other differences. Third, we explore general meanings and uses of the concept of reciprocity, with the primary intention of demonstrating that it cannot be simply reduced to other more frequently invoked moral concepts such as beneficence or justice. We argue that reciprocity can function as a mid-level principle in public health, and generally, captures a core social obligation arising once an individual or group is burdened as a result of acting for the benefit of others. We conclude that while more needs to be explored in relation to the theoretical justification and application of reciprocity, sufficient arguments can be made for it to be taken more seriously as a key principle within public health ethics and bioethics more generally. (shrink)
The generation of evidence is integral to the work of public health and health service providers. Traditionally, ethics has been addressed differently in research projects, compared with other forms of evidence generation, such as quality improvement, program evaluation, and surveillance, with review of non-research activities falling outside the purview of the research ethics board. However, the boundaries between research and these other evaluative activities are not distinct. Efforts to delineate a boundary – whether on grounds of primary purpose, temporality, underlying (...) legal authority, departure from usual practice, or direct benefits to participants – have been unsatisfactory. (shrink)
Médecins Sans Frontières is one of the world’s leading humanitarian medical organizations. The increased emphasis in MSF on research led to the creation of an ethics review board in 2001. The ERB has encouraged innovation in the review of proposals and the interaction between the ERB and the organization. This has led to some of the advances in ethics governance described in this paper.
Hilary Putnam's Twin Earth thought experiment has come to have an enormous impact on contemporary philosophical thought. But while most of the discussion has taken place within the context of the philosophy of mind and language, Terence Horgan and Mark Timmons (H8cT) have defended the intriguing suggestion that a variation on the original thought experiment has important consequences for ethics.' In a series of papers, they' ve developed the idea of a Moral Twin Earth and have argued that its significance (...) is that it has the resources to undermine naturalistic versions of moral realism.' H8t T don't hold back in their assessment. "Moral Twin.. (shrink)
New mechanisms to ensure that counter ter ror ism ac t ivit ies do not contravene international law or ethical values and principles will require careful design. Apart from the ethical and legal grounds, there are good practical rea-sons to design more effective counterter-rorism measures. Preventable harms to population health contribute to mistrust and instability and undermine the stated objectives of the intelligence services.
ABSTRACTThere are many different ethical arguments that might be advanced for and against childhood vaccinations. In this paper I explore one particular argument that focuses on the idea that such vaccinations are justifiable because they are held to be in the best interests of a particular child. Two issues arise from this idea. The first issue is how best interests are to be determined in this case. The second issue is what follows from this to justify potential interventions within the (...) family in relation to such vaccinations. I argue that best interests must be characterised objectively in such situations and that this means that, in at least some cases, parental decision‐making about vaccinating their children may be overridden. (shrink)
This paper expands on “An Ethics Framework for Making Resource Allocation Decisions within Clinical Care: Responding to COVID-19,” which is also published in this special issue of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry. I first describe and explain the steps we took to develop this framework, drawing on previous experience and literature to explain what frameworks can and cannot do. I distinguish frameworks from other kinds of guidance and justify why our framework takes the form it does. Our key aim was (...) to help answer practical questions faced by frontline clinicians. I then explain some of the normative issues that shape the content of the framework itself. Here, I engage critically with the resource allocation literature and justify the particular positions that we take in the framework. Although we undertook this work to address resource allocation decisions anticipated during the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, it will also serve as an example for others who wish to design practical ethics frameworks for other bioethical issues that will emerge in the future. (shrink)
Research ethics is an integral part of research, especially that involving human subjects. However, concerns have been expressed that research ethics has come to be seen as a procedural concern focused on a few well-established ethical issues that researchers need to address to obtain ethical approval to begin their research. While such prospective review of research is important, we argue that it is not sufficient to address all aspects of research ethics. We propose retrospective review as an important complement to (...) prospective review. We offer two arguments to support our claim that prospective review is insufficient. First, as currently practiced, research ethics has become for some a ‘tick box’ exercise to get over the ‘hurdle’ of ethics approval. This fails to capture much of what is important in ethics and does not promote careful reflection on the ethical issues involved. Second, the current approach tends to be rules-based and we argue that research ethics should go beyond this to develop people’s capacity to be sensitive to the relevant moral features of their research, their ethical decision-making skills and their integrity. Retrospective review of a project’s ethical issues, and how they were addressed, could help to achieve those aims better. We believe that a broad range of stakeholders should be involved in such retrospective review, including representatives of ethics committees, participating communities and those involved in the research. All stakeholders could then learn from others’ perspectives and experiences. An open and transparent assessment of research could help to promote trust and understanding between stakeholders, as well as identifying areas of agreement and disagreement and how these can be built upon or addressed. Retrospective review also has the potential to promote critical reflection on ethics and help to develop ethical sensitivity and integrity within the research team. Demonstrating this would take empirical evidence and we suggest that any such initiatives should be accompanied by research into their effectiveness. Our article concludes with a discussion of some possible objections to our proposal, and an invitation to further debate and discussion. (shrink)
ObjectiveTo identify the ethical challenges associated with the development and implementation of new tuberculosis drugs and diagnostics.MethodsTwenty-three semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted between December 2015 and September 2016 with programme administrators, healthcare workers, advocates, policymakers, and funders based in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.ResultsDivergent interests and responsibilities, coupled with power imbalances, are a primary source of ethical challenges; the uncertain risk profiles of new drugs present an additional one. Although this challenge can be partially mitigated (...) through stringent pharmacovigilance, respondents highlighted that high-burden countries tend to lack the resources to facilitate safe implementation. Increased advocacy and community engagement are considered an ethical imperative for future TB development and implementation.ConclusionsThis project helps identify some of the ethical challenges of new TB technologies. It demonstrates that investigating ethical challenges through qualitative research is one way to apprehend the difficulty of implementing new TB technologies. Addressing this difficulty will require that those in positions of power reconsider their interests in relation to disempowered communities.Policy implicationsEfforts to build consensus regarding what values should underpin the global governance of TB research, prevention, and care are essential to facilitate the ethical implementation of new TB technologies. (shrink)
Widespread obesity poses a serious challenge to health outcomes in the developed world and is a growing problem in the developing world. There has been a raft of proposals to combat the challenge of obesity, including restrictions on the nature of food advertising, the content of prepared meals, and the size of sodas; taxes on saturated fat and on calories; and mandated “healthy-options” on restaurant menus. Many of these interventions seem to have a greater impact on rates of obesity than (...) does simply providing information about health risks and healthier lifestyles. The more interventionist policy options have, however, been implemented only slowly, in large part because of criticisms that they are unjustified infringements on the liberty of consumers. Food industry groups, free-market think tanks, and the popular press regard measures that incentivize or penalize particular food and lifestyle choices as unjustifiable state regulation of purely self-regarding behavior. To counteract the liberty-oriented position, those who favor a more interventionist role for the state have recently argued for labeling obesity as a public health emergency. By labeling obesity as a public health emergency, policy-makers could override concerns about individual liberty in order to pursue more interventionist policies designed to guide consumer choices toward healthier lifestyles. In this paper, we argue that, contrary to initial appearances, obesity possesses some of the morally relevant features of public health emergencies, though we do not argue that it actually constitutes one. (shrink)
NThere are many problems with Levi and Green’s (2010) suggestion that a computer-based decision aid will overcome the major objections to advance directives (ADs). We focus on just two here. First, we argue that the key assumption underlying Levi and Green’s paper, that autonomy always ought to take priority over other values, is false. Second, we argue that the paper misses the point of the most telling objections to the use of ADs: they lack the relevant moral authority to determine (...) treatments. It is not that they are merely subject to a set of contingent problems related to capturing the wishes of individuals or being open to misinterpretation by others.We conclude that the plug should be pulled on Levi and Green’s computer-based proposal. (shrink)
In this paper I provide a critique of a set of assumptions relating to agency, choice and the legitimacy of actions impacting health that can be seen in some approaches to health promotion. After a brief discussion about the definition of health promotion, I outline two contrasting approaches to this area of health care practice. The first is focused on the provision of information and the second is concerned with seeking to change people’s preferences in a particular way. It has (...) been argued by a number of critics of health promotion that only the first approach is ethical, as it is for individuals to make their own lifestyle choices and adopt their own conception of the good life. I argue against this ‘information’ approach to health promotion on two grounds. First, I suggest that given the aims of health promotion, the provision of information is, as a matter of fact, of limited effectiveness in achieving these aims. Second, I argue that we have good reasons to question the appropriateness of respecting many of the preferences that individuals happen to have, given the origins and quality of such preferences. I then go on to argue, that by contrast we have good reasons to focus on changing at least some of the preferences that people have related to their lifestyle choices. This involves a commitment to both paternalism and a defence of a certain conception of the good life, but both can be defended. I use the example of potential responses to the growing problem of obesity to illustrate my argument, arguing that only policy that, at least sometimes, aims at preference change will be both effective and ethical. (shrink)
The World Health Organisation's programme for the eradication of poliomyelitis as currently practised in India raises many ethical issues. In this paper we concentrate on just two. The first is the balance to be struck between the risks and benefits generated by the eradication programme itself. The issue of risks and benefits arises in relation to the choice between two different vaccine types available for polio programmes: oral polio vaccine (OPV) and inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). OPV is the vaccine currently (...) used in the eradication campaign in India. We argue that given the current risks/benefits profile of this vaccine, there is an urgent need to review the programme and take remedial action to address existing problems (at least in India). The second issue we discuss is the fact that there is little effort to gain the informed consent of the parents of vaccinated children, as they are not currently told about the potential limitations of OPV or the possibility of vaccine-induced harm. We suggest that such a policy might be justifiable, given the importance of polio eradication, but only if there is a system of compensation for vaccine-induced harm as part of the eradication programme itself. There is a real danger that if these issues are not addressed then public trust in the eradication programme and vaccination programmes as a whole will be lost. (shrink)
This paper argues that qualitative research is both useful and necessary, as it provides an essential means of gaining a richer understanding of patients' perceptions, social processes and meanings. In their paper in this edition of Clinical Ethics, Hallowell and Lawton raise many issues relating to the way that qualitative research is treated by RECs in the UK. In this paper I discuss just three key topics stimulated by their paper: the way that methodology relates to ethics, the experience and (...) character of the researcher, and the normative/descriptive distinction. I strongly support Hallowell and Lawton's appeal for greater communication between qualitative researchers and RECs. In other respects, I would argue that they do not go far enough. The recent review of research ethics structures and the review process provides an opportunity to move away from the present 'one size fits all' approach to ethical review. I would argue that this change could only benefit qualitative research and researchers. (shrink)