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From questions about contact tracing apps to racial and age disparities in health risk and outcomes, the COVID-19 pandemic has foregrounded the importance of ethics as a key concern in public health policies and activities. Moreover, the ethical issues that are implicated in responses to the pandemic reflect the range of those manifested across the field of public health as a whole. In this course, we will survey the ethics of public health through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic, investigating concepts and arguments that are central to the ethics of public health research and practice. For example, we will examine the ethics of disease surveillance, treatment and vaccine research, resource allocation and rationing, compulsion and voluntariness in public health measures, and social determinants of health outcomes, among other topics. To do this, we will need to become familiar with key ethical theories; think deeply about such concepts as privacy, paternalism and autonomy, exploitation, cost-benefit analysis and justice; and compare the function of these concepts in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic with the way they work in responses to other public health concerns.
Format: tutorial; This class will be conducted remotely, via weekly synchronous tutorial meetings on Zoom or Google Meet.
Grading: no pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Biweekly 5-7 page papers, oral commentaries, and tutorial discussions.
declared and prospective Philosophy majors and Public Health concentrators, students with a specific curricular need for the course, and students with a high level of interest who are unlikely to have an opportunity to take the course in a future term
Public Health concentrators may use either PHIL 211T Ethics of Public Health or PHIL 213T Biomedical Ethics to fulfill their 3-elective requirement, but they may not use both courses to do so.
Students will write six biweekly papers of 5-7 pages in length, one of which they will revise and submit at the end of the term. In each of the tutorial papers students will describe and evaluate arguments in the assigned readings, and will develop arguments in support of their own ethical positions. Students will receive written and oral feedback, concentrated particularly in the first half of the semester, to improve their ability to present clear and effective written arguments.