BackgroundViral pandemics present a range of ethical challenges for policy makers, not the least among which are difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce healthcare resources. One important question is whether healthcare workers should receive priority access to a vaccine in the event that an effective vaccine becomes available. This question is especially relevant in the coronavirus pandemic with governments and health authorities currently facing questions of distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.Main textIn this article, we critically evaluate the most common ethical (...) arguments for granting healthcare workers priority access to a vaccine. We review the existing literature on this topic, and analyse both deontological and utilitarian arguments in favour of HCW prioritisation. For illustrative purposes, we focus in particular on the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. We also explore some practical complexities attendant on arguments in favour of HCW prioritisation.ConclusionsWe argue that there are deontological and utilitarian cases for prioritising HCWs. Indeed, the widely held view that we should prioritise HCWs represents an example of ethical convergence. Complexities arise, however, when considering who should be included in the category of HCW, and who else should receive priority in addition to HCWs. (shrink)
The success of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) worldwide has led to an accumulation of frozen embryos that are surplus to the reproductive needs of those for whom they were created. In these situations, couples must decide whether to discard them or donate them for scientific research or for use by other infertile couples. While legislation and regulation may limit the decisions that couples make, their decisions are often shaped by their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, health professionals, scientists and policy-makers are often (...) unaware of the way in which faith traditions view ART and decisions concerning the ‘fate’ of surplus embryos. In this paper scholars representing six major religious traditions provide a commentary on a hypothetical case concerning the donation or destruction of excess ART embryos. These commentaries provide a rich account of religious perspectives on the status of the human embryo and an insight into the relevance of faith to health and policy decisions, particularly in reproductive medicine, ART and embryo research. (shrink)
It is in its Consequentialist mood that Australian philosophizing most clearly displays the 'no-nonsense' quality that we are tempted to think of as a national virtue: I hope this volume goes some way to showing the dangers of our being tempted by such flattering but ultimately shallow (and indeed morally coarse) national myths.
Two years ago, a group of philosophers and bioethicists published what they called a 'Consensus Statement on Conscientious Objection in Healthcare'. The statement, called the Brocher Statement because the group met at a foundation of that name in Geneva, sets out ten points that should 'inform, at the level of legislations and institutional policies, the way that conscientious objections in healthcare is regulated'. The statement proposes a very low threshold for compelling the performance of a practice in violation of conscience, (...) whether of an individual or of an institution, in healthcare. In so doing, it reflects the position advanced ten years earlier by the influential Australian philosopher, Julian Savulescu. Himself one of the group who proposed this 'Consensus Statement', Savulescu had claimed that '[a] doctor's conscience has little place in the delivery of modern medical care. What should be provided to patients is defined by the law and consideration of the just distribution of finite medical resources, which requires a reasonable conception of the patient's good and the patient's informed desires. If people are not prepared to offer legally permitted, efficient, and beneficial care to a patient because it conflicts with their values, they should not be doctors'. Such a policy would, I submit, fail to accommodate the legitimate scope for conscientious decision-making, which is at the heart of medical professionalism. (shrink)