The public health ethics framework and implications for COVID-19

Keywords: bioethics, public health ethics, transparency, collective, individual


The current COVID-19 pandemic may require a shift in our ethical thinking – away from the widely endorsed framework of patientcentred care towards “public health ethics”. At its core, public health ethics works towards the welfare of a majority in society, and as such, it is not usually applied to individual patients, but rather to a collective (for instance, society as a whole). This may call on us to redirect our efforts away from tirelessly promoting the autonomy of individual patients, towards the welfare of patients as a collective. During COVID-19, this confers a duty not only to existing patients under our care, but also to patients who may present with COVID-19.

Author Biographies

A C Lundgren, University of the Witwatersrand

Department of Anaesthesia, Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics, University of the Witwatersrand and Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, South Africa

H R Etheredge, University of the Witwatersrand

Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre and Department of Internal Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

FCA 1 Anaesthetic Refresher Course 2020