Contemporary debates in bioethics: Ethical Issues of the COVID-19 Pandemic – Transdisciplinary Perspectives

The current COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to contain it have led to an absolutely exceptional situation in large parts of the world and are challenging our society in an unprecedented way. There has not been any experience with similar health risks in the last decades. Also, the current rigorous liberty-limiting governmental measures are unprecedented. What seemed impossible a short while ago has suddenly become a reality: a dramatic capacity-overload of health systems in the middle of Europe, the shutdown of practically all public life, curfews and border controls, schools and universities closed, etc.
This crisis has opened up a multitude of serious ethical questions and conflicts, it requires difficult political and social decisions: If there is a shortage of medical resources such that not all seriously ill patients can be treated adequately – based on which criteria should patients be prioritized? Are, for example, age, belonging to medical staff or likelihood of recovery good or at least the best possible criteria for those choices? How are different governmental approaches – such as aiming for herd immunity, isolating particularly vulnerable groups, or even a (almost) complete social lockdown – to be ethically assessed? How are the positive effects of the lockdown (e.g. slowdown of the infection rate, reduction of deaths) to be balanced against its negative effects (e.g. financial crises of companies and private households, psychosocial crises, worsening of social inequalities, etc.)? How can the competing high moral goods (e.g. freedom, protection of life, human dignity) be fairly weighed against each other? What are the moral implications for example of calls for social/physical distancing? How does the current pandemic influence our understanding of health and disease? How is the media coverage to be evaluated? What global justice issues are arising in the crisis?
This lecture series will critically address these and many other crucial questions from transdisciplinary perspectives. During the acute crisis, many difficult decisions had to be made under great time pressure; in the lecture, however, the various aspects can be reflected upon in greater detail; especially against the background of which lessons can be learned for possible future similar pandemics – whether as political decision-makers, members of the health care system or responsible citizens of a democratic state. The speakers will be leading international experts in ethics, medicine, public health, law, etc.

Location: Online class. ZOOM link is provided via ADAM or by writing to Johanna Eichinger (





Triaging Ethical Issues During a Pandemic: International Perspectives & Invisible Enemies

Dr. David Shaw,
Senior Researcher at the Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Basel
Prof. Dr. Bernice Elger
Director of the Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Basel


Facing the ELSI of a pandemic within the Swiss COVID19 Science Task Force

Prof. Dr. Samia Hurst
Directrice de l’Institut Ethique, Histoire, Humanités (IEH2) et du Département de Santé et Médecine Communautaire à la Faculté de médecine de Genève
Member of the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics


COVID in the Intensive Care Unit - Striking an Ethical Balance

Dale Gardiner
Consultant in Adult Intensive Care Medicine at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Clinical Lead for Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, UK


Challenging the „new normal“ in healthcare practice. Clinical ethicists during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Switzerland

Settimio Monteverde, PhD, MME, RN
Clinical Ethicist University Hospital of Zurich and Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Zurich
Prof. (FH) Bern University of Applied Sciences, Department of Health Professions


The Public Health Ethics Perspective

PD Dr. Verina Wild
Deputy Director at the Institute of Ethics, History and Theory of Medicine at Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (LMU)


Solidarity and responsibility during the COVID-Crisis. How can competing high moral goods be fairly weighed against each other?

Prof. Dr. Alena Buyx
Chair of the German Ethics Council
Director of the Institute of History and Ethics in Medicine at Technical University Munich


Unethical to travel? Personal ethics during COVID

Dr. Nikil Mukerji and Adriano Mannino
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München


Physical Distancing: From the Social to the Ethical Implications – the MAVIPAN project

Dr. Marie Baron, PhD
Research assistant at the Centre de recherche en santé durable VITAM, Quebec City, Canada
Prof. Dr. med. Annie Leblanc, PhD
Laval University Faculty of Medicine
Principal investigator, senior researcher at the Centre de recherche en santé durable VITAM, Quebec City, Canada


Palliative Care and Grieving in times of COVID-19 - the Ethical Perspective

Dr med François Pouliot,
Clinical ethicist, Bureau d’éthique appliqué (BÉA), CHU de Québec, Quebec City, Canada
(co-speaker : Geneviève Desgagné, clinical ethicist for the Bureau d’éthique appliqué (BÉA), CHU de Québec, Quebec City, Canada))


The Role of Facts and Uncertainty in the Decision Making Process

 Prof. Dr. Bernice Elger
Director of the Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Basel