Latest publication: Pandemic Ethics: From COVID-19 to Disease X

Edited by Julian Savulescu and Dominic Wilkinson

The COVID-19 pandemic is a defining event of the 21st century. It has taken over eighteen million lives, closed national borders, put whole populations into quarantine and devastated economies.

Yet while COVID-19 is catastrophic, it is not unique. Children who have been home-schooled during COVID-19 will almost certainly face another pandemic in their lifetime - one at least as bad-and potentially much worse-than this one. The WHO has referred to such a future (currently unknown) pathogen as “Disease X”.

The defining feature of a pandemic is its scale-the simultaneous threat to millions or even billions of lives. That scale leads to unavoidable ethical dilemmas since the lives and livelihood of all cannot be protected.

But since one of the most powerful ways of arresting the spread of a pandemic is to reduce contact between people, pandemic ethics also challenges some of our most widely accepted ethical beliefs about individual liberty and autonomy.

Finally, pandemic ethics brings vividly to the foreground debates about the structure of society, inequalities, disadvantage and our global responsibilities.

In this timely and vital collection, Dominic Wilkinson and Julian Savulescu bring together a global team of leading philosophers, lawyers, economists, and bioethicists. The book reviews the COVID-19 pandemic to ask not only 'did our societies make the right ethical choices?', but also 'what lessons must we learn before Disease X arrives?'

Published by Oxford University Press, 1 May 2023

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Uehiro Series in Practical Ethics

For details of all the books based on our Annual Lectures, visit the Lectures Page.  The latest book in the Series is Professor Michael Otsuka's 'How to Pool Risks Across Generations: The Case for Collective Pensions'.

How to Pool Risks Across Generations: The Case for Collective Pensions

by Professor Michael Otsuka, 2020 Uehiro Lecturer

book cover how to pool risks across generations photograph of lake and mountains

Oxford University Press

How to Pool Risks across Generations makes the case for the collective provision of pensions, on fair terms of social cooperation. Through the insurance of a mutual association which extends across society and over multiple generations, we share one another's fates by pooling risks across both space and time. Resources are transferred, not simply between different people, but also within the possible future lives of each person: from one's more fortunate to one's less fortunate future selves. The book opens with an investigation of the longevity and investment risk that even a single individual on a desert island would face in providing for her old age. From this atomistic starting point, it builds up, within and across the chapters, to increasingly collective forms of pension provision. By joining together, it is possible to tame the risks we would face as individuals each with our own private pension pot. A collective pension can be justified as a 'social union of social unions': an enduring corporate body, which is formed by agreements to pool risks, in a manner that involves reciprocity between the various individuals that constitute the collective. Even though all individuals age and die, a collective pension scheme remains evergreen, as the average age of members remains relatively unchanged, through the influx of new members to replace those who retire. It is therefore possible to smooth risks indefinitely across as well as within generations, to the mutual advantage of each.

Published: 27 June 2023, Oxford University Press