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We need ethics to guide us out of lockdown not just science

3 38 12
23.05.2020

Signage has been of particular importance throughout the pandemic. Like exit signs on the motorway, the mantra “Stay home-Protect the NHS-Save lives” was a clear and consistent message that by following this path, staying on this course, the UK would find itself more or less in one piece after lockdown.

Now, as the UK looks to come out of lockdown, we find ourselves following a road map, a yellow brick road purportedly drawn by “the science”, that will lead us to safety. Many have criticised this map, questioning how and who developed it. But there’s also the question of whether it is the right road map of the many possible ones we could follow.

The UK government has been clear all along that it is “following the science”, but as I, alongside respected medical ethicists in the UK, have recently argued, this perpetuates a myth about that science: that it is somehow morally neutral, objective and illuminates only one way forward for navigating the crisis. This is not the case. Instead there are many roads out of the pandemic, each one dependent on how we value the science used to draw the map. In a sense, all roads lead to Rome, but which road we take determines the difficulty of the voyage itself, and most importantly, in what state the UK will be in when it gets there.

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