In this opinion piece for the Hastings Center, TMC Fellow Brendan Johnson explores how COVID-19 brings into view the political dimensions of truly ethical medicine.
“Dilemmas that clinicians face in the coronavirus pandemic–who gets the ventilator, the 80-year-old grandmother or the 20-year-old student?–are the bread and butter of mainstream bioethics. In medical school, my classmates and I memorized the four principles (beneficence, nonmaleficence, justice, and autonomy), which we were told would help us make hard clinical decisions in ethically ambiguous terrain.
But Covid-19 shows that medical ethics means much more than what generally falls under bioethics. Medical ethics is deeply political, and to act ethically in medicine means engaging the larger context in which it operates….”