A Medical Ethicist on Moral Questions Arising from the Coronavirus Pandemic
We begin with advice from a medical ethicist to help navigate us through the challenges ahead as more and more people are locked down at home in isolation while businesses close and increasingly people are not going to work and are only venturing out to the supermarket where shelves are empty as a result of panic buying. Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics and Director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Department of Population Health, joins us to discuss his article at Time.com “‘Is Ordering Takeout Unethical?’ A Medical Ethicist Answers Some of the Most Common Questions Around Coronavirus”. We discuss how people can protect themselves and their families in ways that are not selfish or paranoid at the same time while acting responsibly towards others, particularly the elderly who are the most vulnerable to the virus. He offers an example in terms of panic buying of the much-needed N95 surgical masks which are in short supply because selfish and uninformed people have hoarded them. But those who have should immediately turn them over to medical professionals who urgently need them because they are useless to the general public unless properly fitted. As for the ethics of social distancing, even having sex with your spouse or partner is not advised for two weeks until it is clear neither person is infected. And rather than fight over grabbing the last roll of toilet paper on the bare shelves of the supermarket, people should get into the habit of washing their hands after going out, in particular returning from the supermarket. In general washing your hands often appears to be one of the best defenses and it turns out to be a practice that cannot be repeated too much even if it seems redundant or obsessive.