by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
… [T]here is someone crucially absent in the public effort to deal with the pandemic: a bioethicist. The lack of someone who is qualified to speak specifically to the moral and ethical issues raised by the pandemic in terms of dealing with shortages and the treatment of the elderly — who remain the group considered the most vulnerable to the disease — is potentially leaving the president without the sort of advice he desperately needs as the crisis becomes more acute.
Absent from the debate about the administration’s response to the crisis has been a discussion of the key ethical questions whose answers must inform decisions about the shutdown of normal life and how to cope with the growing numbers of coronavirus victims. While Trump’s top coronavirus advisers are well qualified to deal with questions relating to immunology and infectious diseases, the lack of a leading figure on the response team who can speak to bioethical dilemmas not only is unfortunate, but also may be setting up the administration for more problems.
The nation’s focus has been largely on the mechanics of the spread of the virus and how to ensure that medical facilities are not overwhelmed by a surge of patients as the contagion spreads. But the core issue that influences decision-making when shortages of equipment such as respirators arise is more ethical than medical.