Fairness, Ethnicity, and COVID-19 Ethics: A Discussion of How the Focus on Fairness in Ethical Guidance During the Pandemic Discriminates Against People From Ethnic Minority Backgrounds

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Abstract

Recent weeks have seen an increased focus on the ethical response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ethics guidance has proliferated across Britain, with ethicists and those with a keen interest in ethics in their professions working to produce advice and support for the National Health Service. The guiding principles of the pandemic have emerged, in one form or another, to favour fairness, especially with regard to allocating resources and prioritizing care. However, fairness is not equivalent to equity when it comes to healthcare, and the focus on fairness means that existing guidance inadvertently discriminates against people from ethnic minority backgrounds. Drawing on early criticisms of existing clinical guidance (for example, the frailty decision tool) and ethical guidance in Britain, this essay will discuss the importance of including sociology, specifically the relationship between ethnicity and health, in any ethical and clinical guidance for care during the pandemic in the United Kingdom. To do otherwise, I will argue, would be actively choosing to allow a proportion of the British population to die for no other reason than their ethnic background. Finally, I will end by arguing why sociology must be a key component in any guidance, outlining how sociology was incorporated into the cross-college guidance produced by the Royal College of Physicians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-600
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Volume17
Issue number4
Early online date25 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

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Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Ethical guidelines
  • Ethnic minorities
  • Health inequalities
  • Pandemic ethics
  • Social sciences and ethics

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