Should lockdown protesters forfeit their right to medical care?

Protests in US state capitals against coronavirus lockdowns have become a familiar feature of nightly news bulletins. In late April, about 1,500 people attended a rally in Madison, Wisconsin – and later about 70 tested positive for the virus.

It’s not certain that the 70 were protesters, but incidents like this have angered some bioethicists. Writing in PennLive, a Pennsylvania blog, Art Caplan, Dominic Sisti, Moti Gorin, and Emily Largent argue that protesters are freeloaders on the sacrifices made by people who observe lockdown restrictions.

“Individuals who get COVID-19 while protesting the very public health measures necessary to… MORE

Unclean! Unclean!

How much of a help are masks in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic? Absolutely essential, it seems, to New Yorkers. One woman without a mask sparked hysteria in a Staten Island supermarket. Other shoppers started shrieking “get out” (and other less delicate words). Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered people to wear masks in public when they are unable to follow social distancing guidelines.

But do we need masks? Do they really… MORE

Is bioethics an honest profession? The jury’s still out

Back in 1976, a young bioethicist named Peter Singer wrote, “bioethics is still in its infancy, and its rich diet of foundation grants and government sponsorship has made it a flabby infant rather than a tough adolescent.” A decade later, a bioethicist named Samuel Gorovitz asked whether bioethics was an honest profession.

They were not the first nor the last to point out that this relatively new field is on shaky ground, philosophically, and that scientists, sociologists, philosophers and doctors often are deeply sceptical. Steven Pinker, Harvard’s controversial polymath, sputtered in 2015 in an op-ed in the… MORE

Covid-19 pandemic strands babies in Georgia, too

A birth at Chachava Clinic in Tbilisi

About a hundred babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine are separated from the parents who commissioned them. The parents can’t visit and the babies can’t leave. In the meantime, the children are being cared for by their surrogate mothers or the agency which recruited them. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been difficult to recruit women to look after them, according to a report in Deutsche Welle.

This situation has been widely reported. But what about other surrogacy destinations?

According to the news site Eurasianet, dozens… MORE

Armenia takes drastic measures to reverse population decline

Not getting any younger in Armenia 

The tiny but fiercely distinctive and geo-politically strategic nation of Armenia is facing a demographic crisis. Its population is about 2.9 million, its fertility rate is about 1.6, far below replacement level, and the population is slowly shrinking.

The government is alarmed and launched some initiatives in March to reverse the trend -- including testing the fertility of teenage girls.

According to Eurasianet, former President Serzh Sargsyan announced in 2017 a plan to increase the population to 4 million by 2040. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, promised to boost… MORE

Ethicists double down on utilitarian framework for pandemics

Utilitarianism medical ethics has come under heavy fire in recent months. Many commentators have, for example, criticised utilitarian ICU rationing frameworks that discriminate against older people and people with disabilities. Others have condemned the veiled introduction of herd immunity strategies that involve allowing coronavirus to spread through the community to create population-level resistance to COVID-19. These policies seek to maximise the long-term social and economic welfare of society, but many believe that we should instead prioritise the needs of society’s most vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with disabilities, and even if this comes at a considerable… MORE

Queensland government postpones euthanasia legislation

The Queensland State Government has postponed the introduction of controversial voluntary euthanasia legislation as it prepares for an election later this year. 

Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk announced on Thursday that the introduction of euthanasia laws would be delayed until at least March next year, with the government requesting that the Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) draft a bill for the government’s consideration. 

“There are [a] number of operational issues to work through before we can implement any kind of voluntary assisted dying scheme in Queensland at this time”, the Premier said in a… MORE

Immunity passports: a privacy nightmare or the key to ending lockdowns?

The ethics of immunity passports is certain to become a focus for national debates as coronavirus lockdowns ease up.

Estonia has started to test one of the world’s first digital immunity passports, according to a report in Reuters. It enables people to share their immunity status with an employer, using a temporary QR-code generated after digital authentication. “Digital immunity passport aims to diminish fears and stimulate societies all over the globe to move on with their lives amidst the pandemic,” said Taavet Hinrikus, of Back to Work, a non-government group which is developing the passport.

China is also implementing… MORE

‘Don’t call them heroes’

Healthcare workers in the coronavirus epidemic are everywhere being praised as heroes (except Russia – see the next story). They are risking their lives; they live in isolation; many become sick; some die. But labelling them as heroes a good idea, asks a feature in Stat.

First of all, “The hero image burns so bright that it eclipses any light shining on the failures of the system.”

It also masks the post-traumatic stress that many will experience. “The white noise of the hero complex deepens, widens, and obscures the human cost of this burnout epidemic.”

And then, “There is… MORE

Nobody calls them ‘heroes’ in Russia

Over the past few weeks TV news has often featured public appreciation of healthcare workers, whether it was Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanking nurses of the National Health Servicer for saving his life or locked-in Madrileños banging pots.

No displays of gratitude have come from Russia. There doctors are on the nose, regarded with suspicion as whining money-grubbers. According to a report from Associated Press:

Antipathy toward the medical profession is widespread in Russia, said social anthropologist Alexandra Arkhipova, who studies social media posts peddling virus conspiracy theories. More than 100 theories she studied say doctors diagnose COVID-19… MORE

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