Bioethics in Brief is a newsletter of the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, committed to promoting clinical health care and health policy which is patient-centered, compassionate, and just. Opinions expressed in the newsletter are those of the authors and do not represent the position of the Center.
Solidarity and Lessons Learned
Arguably better from an ethical, and pragmatic, perspective would be:
- Transparency throughout the decision-making process, through open forums to address concerns.
- A clear and unhurried regulatory process for development and implementation.
- More research into transmission risks and measures that could lessen any risks.
- Greater explanation of vaccine manufacturer liability protections, and how any harmed individuals would be adequately compensated for injuries.
The latter point gets to the ethical consideration of solidarity. If we are to appeal to individuals to cede individual liberty for the “greater good,” we should demand the minimal amount of sacrifice necessary to achieve benefits. Further, an ethic of care would have us consider potential negative consequences prior to policy implementation and include all necessary supports and care for individuals harmed in the process.
As discussed elsewhere in this issue, health care workers have a strong ethical obligation to get vaccinated, yet rates of vaccination in recent years have been disappointingly low. Ultimately,
in New York the use of coercion backfired, with potentially far-reaching and lasting impact on future vaccination programs.
It is admirable for the U.S. to hone a sense of solidarity among individuals, to illustrate our interrelatedness and the collective impact of many of our decisions. However, this will not happen overnight, and should not be used to justify placing burdens on certain individuals.
Rather, we should — in an engaged and open fashion — discuss how to fairly share benefits and burdens. And certainly, if we are going to call on individuals like Jane to be vaccinated for the benefit of others, we should have adequate data vis-à-vis those benefits. By learning these lessons, we can reframe the mandate experience as a teaching model for how we might better use policy to advance patient and professional interests within a meaningful vision of solidarity.
— Amy T. Campbell