Pupils Debate Topical Issues

The TEP (Theology, Ethics and Philosophy) Year 11s were asked to listen to the Radio 4 show: ‘The Global philosopher, Pandemic Ethics’, hosted by Michael Sandel and an international panel debating the right way to respond to coronavirus.

The pupils were asked to consider ethical questions such as ‘is it right to stockpile goods?’ ‘Is it right that celebrities are being tested first because of their status?’ ‘Should the government be able to use surveillance to help control the virus?’ and ‘who should be treated first in hospital when there are limited resources?’ They then listened to the radio show and reflected on the opinions of the international panel and wrote a reflection on whether their views had changed since listening to the mixed opinions of people from different countries and cultures. 

A reflective response from Harry P:

Q: Is it right for Amazon to favour their loyal customers, who pay an annual fee, by delivering to them first? A: Outside of a pandemic yes that I think is the right thing to do as all companies should reward loyalty. However, in these circumstances of a pandemic, the role of businesses shifts and must stray away from thinking like a business to earn money but to become one for all the people in a crisis. Therefore in some cases this could mean not favouring the loyal customers as some people who never shop with Amazon might desperately need something so in this time no I don't think they should prioritise loyal customers. 

Q: Should celebrities be able to be tested first because of their status/wealth, than regular civiliansA: It depends on the role the celebrity has. You would class Boris Johnson to be a celebrity as he is well known and given he is the face of the country, yes someone like him should be tested first as he is needed. However, entertainment celebrities shouldn’t be tested first because the virus does not discriminate to who it kills and all human lives are equal to one another which is a human right. Therefore no they shouldn’t as their human life is no more valuable than anyone else's. 

Q: How do you think hospitals should allocate scarce access to life saving treatment? A: In my opinion, the only fair way that is consistent with what I said earlier to every life being equal is to do whatever arrives first or give it to the most sick patient. The moment you divide it due to a factor of someone's lifestyle, age, race, any of that, it strays towards discrimination which is unacceptable.

Overall summary after the programme: 

My summary of the programme was that opinion over all the topics was very divided between all different countries demonstrating the problems with cultural relativism. This was exemplified most, I think, in the argument of who should receive the treatment most and I think this is because it is the hardest of the topics. Some people said it should be based on what a person has given to society and what they could give, whereas others said it should be literally who gets there first and no judging age or chance of survival. Whilst opinions differed on all, this was a common theme in the sense each person had the interest of the people at heart.

This was displayed in the normal dilemma of should people be allowed to stockpile? Some thought that it was fine because it allowed people to care for their families who needed protection and prevented them from needing to leave the house again and therefore reducing the chance of spreading. However, other people said it was wrong because it created shortages for other people and that was unfair. Yet both sides kept the interest of the people at heart, whilst to me, one seemed to be completely selfish and wrong, the argument for stockpiling made some sense and showed that people still had the interest of stopping the spread to others and didn't seem as selfish as I had previously thought.

Overall I don’t think my opinions have changed because I have looked at all the news and data myself and therefore I have an informed opinion and could easily argue my arguments well. I think it also hasn’t changed because it is obviously in line with my friends and family because I have experienced this with them. I feel most strongly that this virus is the great equaliser and it doesn't discriminate between rich and poor. So, therefore, to beat it we have to do the same, especially with celebrities as their lives are no more valuable than anyone else's. Frankly, they don’t contribute more to the morale of the country as I can say with confidence, Captain Tom Moore; previously a normal elderly man with no celebrity life, who has contributed more to the morale of this country than the likes of any premier league sportsman or singer.


Annabel S’s reflection: 

After listening to the podcast, it is evident that there are many controversial views on how we, as humans, should deal with a pandemic. We are faced with endless unfortunate ethical issues and questions and the podcast highlighted that there are multiple factors which contribute to one’s opinion regarding what’s morally acceptable during Covid-19. Some of these include one’s; current location, financial status and social status. For example, participants from countries such as Italy have witnessed the pandemic at its absolute worst and are perhaps more insightful with regards to it’s true effect. Therefore, they are possibly more in favour of stockpiling through fear of leaving their home. Although there seems to be no right or wrong answer, overall I personally believe that as a global community, everyone should adhere to their governments guidelines so that in event, we can save lives.

I feel that if these rules were strictly complied with then the more morally challenging questions such as who should have priority access to healthcare resources or saving life treatment would not need to be raised. In conclusion, It’s important to find the correct fairness between minimising the spread of the disease through quarantine and travel consideration but preserve certain rights that all individuals have to freedom of movement.