3 moral virtues necessary for an ethical pandemic response and reopening

https://theconversation.com/3-moral-virtues-necessary-for-an-ethical-pandemic-response-and-reopening-140688?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20June%2026%202020%20-%201662516009&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20June%2026%202020%20-%201662516009+Version+A+CID_98447eb9cb25b06b85aed07c7fd721bd&utm_source=campaign_monitor_us&utm_term=3%20moral%20virtues%20necessary%20for%20an%20ethical%20pandemic%20response%20and%20reopening

3 moral virtues necessary for an ethical pandemic response and ...

The health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are not equally felt. From the United States to Brazil and the United Kingdomlow-wage workers are suffering more than others and communities of color are most vulnerable to the virus.

Despite the disparities, countries are reopening without a plan to redress these unequal harms and protect the broader community going forward. Our ethics research examines the potential for using virtues as a guide for a more moral coronavirus response.

Virtues are applied morals – actions that promote individual and collective well-being. Examples include generosity, compassion, honesty, solidarity, fortitude, justice and patience. While often embedded in religion, virtues are ultimately a secular concept. Because of their broad, longstanding relevance to human societies, these values tend to be held across cultures.

We propose three core virtues to guide policymakers in easing out of coronavirus crisis mode in ways that achieve a better new normalcompassion, solidarity and justice.

1. Compassion

Compassion is a core virtue of all the world’s major religions and a bedrock moral principle in professions like health care and social work. The distinguishing characteristic of compassion is “shared suffering:” Compassionate people and policies recognize suffering and take actions to alleviate it.

As the French philosopher André Comte-Sponville said, compassion “means that one refuses to regard any suffering as a matter of indifference or any living being as a thing.”

Individual acts of compassion abound in the coronavirus crisis, like frontline health care professionals and neighbors who deliver food, among other examples.

Compassion and solidarity on display at New York’s Elmhurst Hospital, during the April peak of the city’s coronavirus outbreak. Noam Galai/Getty Images

Some pandemic-era policies also reflect compassion, such as regulations preventing evictions and expanding unemployment benefits and giving food aid to poor familes.

A compassion-guided reopening aimed at preventing or reducing human suffering would require governments to continually monitor and alleviate the pain of their people. That includes addressing new forms of suffering that arise as circumstances change.

2. Solidarity

In a global pandemic, the actions people do or don’t take affect the health of others worldwide. Such shared emergencies require solidarity, which recognizes both the inherent dignity of each individual person and the interdependence of all people. As United Nations officials have emphasized, “we are all in this together.”

Public health measures like stay-at-home orders, social distancing and wearing masks reflect solidarity. While compliance in the United States has not been universal, data indicate broad approval for these measures. A new study found that 80% of Americans nationwide support staying home and social distancing and 74% support using face coverings in public.

To achieve these acts of solidarity, the leaders most praised in their countries and abroad – from U.S. National Institutes of Health director Dr. Anthony Fauci to New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern – have relied primarily on moral persuasion, not threats of punishment.

By delivering clear information, giving simple and repeated behavioral guidance, and setting a good example, they’ve helped convince millions to take personal responsibility for protecting their community.

Face masks signal that wearers care about protecting others around them. Islam Dogru/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

3. Justice

Justice focuses on the fair distribution of resources and the social structures that enable what the Dutch philosopher Patrick Loobuyck has called a “condition of equality.”

Justice-oriented policies are necessary for a moral reopening because of the pandemic’s disproportionate health and economic impacts. The evidence clearly shows that communities of colorlow-income populationspeople in nursing homes and those on the margins of society, such as homeless people and undocumented immigrants, are hardest hit.

Justice-oriented policies would aim for equitable balancing of necessary pandemic resources. That means directing testing and health equipment toward vulnerable communities – as identified by COVID-19 tracking data and risk factors like housing density and poverty – and ensuring free, widespread vaccine distribution when it becomes available.

In the U.S., economic justice will also require aggressively investing in minority-run businesses and poorer areas to guard against further harm to owners, employees and neighborhoods.

Similarly, all American school children have lost critical classroom hours, but lower-income children have been disproportionately damaged by remote learning in part due to the digital divide and loss of free lunch programs. Justice would demand channeling additional resources to the students and schools that need them most.

A moral reopening

Using virtues to guide social policies is an old idea. It dates back at least to the Greek thinker Aristotle.

Social distance stickers to prepare Nepal’s empty Tribhuwan International Airport for reopening. Narayan Maharjan/NurPhoto via Getty Images

New Zealand is a good example of virtuous pandemic policymaking, even considering its advantages in having wealth, low density and no land borders. Its coronavirus response included not only aggressive public health measures but also a well articulated message of being united in the COVID-19 fight and recurring government payments so workers did not have to risk their health for their job.

Note that it isn’t enough to apply just one virtue in a crisis of this magnitude. Policies built on compassion, solidarity and justice should be deployed in combination.

A compassionate post-pandemic response that does not address underlying inequalities, for example, ignores certain communities’ specific needs. Meanwhile, tackling specific injustices without engaging everyone in efforts like mask-wearing endangers the public health.

Bolstered by scientific evidence, virtue ethics can help nations reopen not just economically but morally, too.

 

 

 

 

Protests essential despite risk of coronavirus spread, healthcare workers say

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/protests-essential-despite-risk-of-coronavirus-spread-healthcare-workers-say.html?utm_medium=email

After months of pleading for social distancing, health officials ...

Though the protests that erupted after a black man died in police custody might result in spikes of COVID-19, some healthcare workers say that they are important, as racial disparities in healthcare is also a public health issue, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Public health experts and healthcare workers across the country are joining in the protests that began after George Floyd died at the hand of police in Minneapolis in late May. He is the most recent example of police brutality against black people and joins a long list of deaths of African Americans in police custody.

Healthcare experts and workers are saying though the protests may result in a new wave of coronavirus cases, the issue at hand is more important and the potential benefits outweigh the risks, especially since the risk of transmission is lower outside than inside when precautions are taken.

Darrell Gray, MD, a black gastroenterologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, has been attending protests, telling the Journal, “I prioritize being at protests and peaceful demonstrations because I strongly believe that they can be leveraged to produce change.” He said that he is taking precautions, wearing a face mask and distancing himself as much as possible.

Dr. Gray also said that the pandemic has disproportionately affected black communities, as the underlying conditions that are linked to more severe COVID-19 illness, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, are more rampant in those communities.

Jennifer Nuzzo, DrPH, an epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, also supports the protests, though she has not been able to attend one in person as yet due to time constraints.

She told the Journal although she is worried about virus transmission, “there are some categories of risk that are, for me, completely worth it.” These protests are in those categories, she said.

Dr. Nuzzo and other health experts have also said protesters can reduce the risk of transmission by wearing masks, trying to maintain 6 feet of social distance when possible and making sure they are washing their hands often or using hand sanitizer.

More than 1,000 public health and infectious disease experts and community stakeholders signed an open letter last week saying that demonstrations were important for combating race-based health inequities, largely a result of racism, the Journal reports.

 

 

“What is it that America has failed to hear?”

https://mailchi.mp/9f24c0f1da9a/the-weekly-gist-june-5-2020?e=d1e747d2d8

The Peace Alliance's tweet - ""A riot is the language of the ...

“What is it that America has failed to hear?” asked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in March of 1968, calling riots the “language of the unheard”. “It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.” Stubbornly, shamefully, we continue to turn a deaf ear: to structural racism; to institutionalized inequality; to a pandemic of police brutality and bigotry that chokes off the breath of black Americans as surely as a virus in the lungs or a boot on the neck. But the sound in the streets is thunderous.

We in healthcare must listen. We must hear that what killed George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, and Philando Castile, and Trayvon Martin, and Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others, as surely as the terrible actions of any single person, was the pervasive, insidious virus of racism, long since grown endemic in our country.

This week’s protests are a kind of ventilator, providing emergency breath for a national body in crisis. We must work—urgently—on the therapeutics of structural change and the vaccines of education and understanding.

At Gist Healthcare we are listening, and learning. As a team, we’ve committed to each other to be attentive, invested, empathetic allies, and to dedicate our individual and collective time, talents and treasure to antiracist work, in healthcare and beyond. Our contribution may not be large, and it will never be enough, but at least we hope it will be positive. We’d like to hear your thoughts and suggestions as well. For the moment, and for our colleagues, friends, and families, we stand with the protestors.

Black Lives Matter.