COVID-19: Pandemic Ethics

COVID-19: Pandemic Ethics

graphic of coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to critical shortages of life-saving resources, restrictions on liberty for the protection public health, and enormous pressure to quickly produce vaccines. Our research on the ethics of the different phases of the pandemic helps develop strategies for resource allocation, infection control, and research ethics that are ethically and legally justified.

This is a selection of our key articles. A full list is available on our hot topics page Pandemic Ethics.

UK Government portcullis icon

Response to Department of Health and Social Care consultation on ‘Making vaccination a condition of deployment in older adult care homes’
Dr Isra Black (University of York) and Dr Lisa Forsberg (University of Oxford)
Link to written evidence:  PDF
Link to Consultation: (14 April 2021)

Written evidence to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on 'Covid 19 Vaccine Certification'
Dr Lisa Forsberg (University of Oxford), Dr Isra Black (University of York), Professor Thomas Douglas (University of Oxford)
Link to written evidence:  PDF
Call for evidence: (23 March 2021)

Written evidence from Dr Lisa Forsberg, Dr Melanie Collard, Dr Isra Black, Dr Henrique Carvalho and Dr Anastasia Chamberlen (COV0004)
'COVID-19 and the criminal law' (21 April 2021)
Link to written evidence: COV0004 - Covid-19 and the criminal law
Link to report:

Written evidence from Dr Jonathan Pugh, Dr Lisa Forsberg, and Dr Thomas Douglas (COV0255)
'Restrictions of Liberty in Public Health, Medical Treatment, and Human Rights in The COVID-19 Pandemic'
Link to report:

Written evidence from Dr Lisa Forsberg, Dr Isra Black, Dr Thomas Douglas, Dr Jonathan Pugh (COV0220)
'Compulsory vaccination for Covid-19 and human rights law'
Link to report:

Written evidence from the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities (COV0156)
On maintaining public health whilst upholding human rights 
Contributors from OUC include Dr Jonathan Pugh, Dr Stephen Rainey and Joseph Nguyen
Link to report:

Written evidence from Dr Stephen Rainey (LBC0005)
'Following the Science: to emergency governance, and back again'
Link to report:

Bradfield, O. and Giubilini, A., (2021 forthcoming), 'A spoonful of honey or a gallon of vinegar? A conditional COVID-19 vaccination policy for frontline healthcare workers', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: online first published May 11, 2021

Douglas, T., Forsberg, L. and Pugh, J. (forthcoming), 'Compulsory medical intervention versus external constraint in pandemic control', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: early online 20 August 2020

Giubilini, A., Savulescu, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2021 forthcoming), 'Queue questions: Ethics of COVID-19 vaccine prioritization', Bioethics, Vol: 35(4): 348-355 [PMC8013927

Giubilini, A., Savulescu, J. and Wilkinson, D., (2020), 'COVID-19 vaccine: vaccinate the young to protect the old?', Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Vol: 7(1) [PMC7337759]

Savulescu, J., Giubilini, A. and Danchin, M., (2021), 'Global Ethical Considerations Regarding Mandatory Vaccination in Children', The Journal of Pediatrics, Vol: 231(April): 10-16 [PMC7817402] | Authors' reply to Sprengholz and Betsch response to paper, The Journal of Pediatrics, online (17 August 2021) 

Savulescu, J., (2021), 'Good Reasons to Vaccinate: Mandatory or Payment for Risk?', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 47(2) [PMC7848060]

Schaefer, G,O., Tam, C., Savulescu, J. and  Voo, T. (2020) COVID-19 vaccine development: Time to consider SARS-CoV-2 challenge studies? Vaccine 2020 38,(33): 5085-5088


Brown R, Kelly D, Wilkinson D, and Savulescu J, (2020), The Scientific and Ethical Feasibility of Immunity Passports. Lancet Infectious Diseases, Online First, subscription required (preprint in Word); and Authors' Reply A public health ethic should inform policies on COVID-19 immunity passports – Authors' reply [preprint in Word to follow] (reply to Françoise Baylis, Natalie Kofler 'A public health ethic should inform policies on COVID-19 immunity passports' response to original article)

Brown R, Savulescu J, Williams B, and Wilkinson D, (2020), A Passport to Freedom? Immunity Passports for COVID-19. Journal of Medical Ethics,(46):652-659.

Fritz Z, Huxtable R, Ives J, Paton A, Slowther AM, and Wilkinson D, (2020), Ethical road map through the covid-19 pandemic. BMJ 369:m2033

Giubilini A, and Savulescu J, (2020), Exit Statement COVID-19: Ethical guidelines for the Exit Strategy. (1 October)

Levy, N. and Savulescu, J., (forthcoming), 'After the Pandemic: New Responsibilities', Public Health Ethics, Vol: online 17 March

Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D. and Savulescu, J., (forthcoming 2021), 'Sense and sensitivity: can an inaccurate test be better than no test at all?', Journal of Medical Ethics, (online first)

Pugh, J, (2020) ‘The United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Act, Deprivations of Liberty, and The Right to Liberty and Security of the Person’. Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Vol: 7(1), January-June 2020

Savulescu, J. and Cameron, J., (2020), 'Why Lock Down of the Elderly Is Not Ageist and Why Levelling Down Equality Is Wrong', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: 46(11): 717–721 [PMC7335694]

Williams, B., Cameron, J., Trauer, J., Marais, B., Ragonnet, R. and Savulescu, J., (forthcoming 2021), 'The Ethics of Selective Restriction of Liberty in a Pandemic', Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol: online [PMC TO FOLLOW]

Cameron J, Savulescu J, Wilkinson D. (forthcoming 2021) Is Withdrawing Treatment Really More Problematic than Withholding Treatment? Journal of Medical Ethics, (online First)

Palacios‐González, C., Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D. and Savulescu, J., (forthcoming 2021), 'Ethical heuristics for pandemic allocation of ventilators across hospitals', Developing World Bioethics, (online first)

Pugh, J., Wilkinson, D., Palacios Gonzalez, C. and Savulescu, J., (forthcoming 2021), 'Beyond Individual Triage: Regional Allocation of Life-Saving Resources such as Ventilators in Public Health Emergencies', Health Care Analysis, (online first)

Savulescu J, Vergano M, Craxi L, Wilkinson D. An ethical algorithm for rationing life sustaining treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. British Journal of Anaesthesia 2020

Savulescu J, Cameron J, Wilkinson D. Equality or utility? Ethics and law of rationing ventilators. British Journal of Anaesthesia 2020  125 (3): 253e258

Savulescu J, Persson I, Wilkinson D. Utilitarianism and the pandemic. Bioethics 2020. 34(6):620-632

Wilkinson D. Frailty triage: is rationing intensive medical treatment on the grounds of frailty ethical? American Journal of Bioethics. 2020 (online first)

Giubilini, A. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'Stopping exploitation: properly remunerating healthcare workers for risk in COVID-19 pandemic', Bioethics, Vol: 35(4): 372-379 [PMC8014134]

Gyngell, C., Christodoulou, J. and Savulescu, J., (2021), 'Ethically utilising COVID-19 host-genomic data', npj Genomic Medicine, Vol: 6(1): article 31 [PMC8110518]