COVID-19: Opportunities for public health ethics?

E.L.M. Maeckelberghe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
133 Downloads (Pure)


Public health ethics (PHE) is the discipline that contributes to making sure that public health professionals and policy makers can explain what they do, and that they do what they do for the right reasons. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ethical deliberations often did not feature explicitly in public health decisions thus not offering transparency in decision-making processes over time and not making clear whether there was any consistency, resulting in loss of trust of the general public. I contend that a public health ethics framework based on principles could add to transparency and consistency in public health decision-making. A framework of seven principles, illustrated by applying them to some vital COVID-19 ethical questions, is presented. Next, the question of COVID-19 vaccination is used to show how the principles work in conjunction. In conclusion, I claim that embedding explicit ethical analysis in public health work is necessary to be trustworthy and regain trustworthiness. Preparedness for future challenges implies making the public health community more ‘ethically literate’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-52
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2021


  • Ethical principles
  • Public Health Ethics
  • COVID-19

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