COVID Vaccines, Medical Ethics, and Manslaughter

I wrote this so long ago, it’s fresh as a daisy. Just substitute “COVID-19” for “Ebola”:

Ebola Vaccines, Medical Ethics, and Manslaughter.

It’s about conflicting values:

  • Purity of the scientific approach, which requires double-blind testing.
  • Fear of legal liability.
  • Saving lives now.

The system rewards adherence to norms. If, like many pandemics of the past, there is a second more deadly wave, the practically impenetrable defense is “We didn’t see it coming.” No good deed goes unpunished.

Health care is the one area of our lives where we accept a level of paternalism that is otherwise unacceptable. You don’t have to be a libertarian to see the value of a partial exception for COVID-19:

Legislation that permits a private individual, and a vaccine company of good scientific repute which has completed favorable Phase 1 trials, to make a contract that limits liability for the many vague and unsubstantiated complaints that can be wrongly blamed on a novel antigen.

If life were a gaming table, our mutual choices, of citizen and vaccine maker, would be:

  • Keep playing.
  • Step away from the table

But it’s not a game, and we can’t step away from this.


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