About this session
While there is disagreement about the precise nature of our obligations to other people, a duty to avoid causing harm to others can seem relatively straightforward and uncontroversial. Where duties to protect or to assist other persons seem to require positive or deliberate action, a duty to avoid causing harm or deprivation may seem, intuitively at least, to require only passivity or restraint. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that harm can be inflicted on other persons unknowingly, and without any intention to do so. Asymptomatic transmission is possible, and the virus can remain a viable source of infection in the air and on surfaces for several hours. This means that direct contact with an infected person is not essential for the transmission of infection. In a such a context, merely refraining from actively vicious or violent acts towards others is not enough to avoid causing them harm.
In April’s Monthly Lecture, Dr Peter West-Oram will discuss various definitions of the concept of solidarity, and how our different understandings of our obligations to engage in solidarity with other people shape our understanding of what it is that we must do for other people in the context of individual, public, and global health.
Dr Peter West-Oram is Lecturer in Bioethics at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), where he has been based since 2017. He is a political philosopher and bioethicist whose work combines applied research into public health bioethics practice and policy with theoretical questions relating to global justice and ethical theory. This research focuses primarily on questions relating to the origins, nature, and extent of our obligations to other persons, and the causes and consequences of refusals and failures to engage with such obligations in the health care and public health contexts. This work explores the importance of solidarity for health justice and the delivery and maintenance of effective health care and public health systems, and currently focuses on the consequences of failures of solidarity and of conflicts between competing solidarity groups in the context of public and global health.
In addition to his core teaching and research responsibilities, Peter is the Chair of the BSMS Research Governance and Ethics Committee. Further details about his work are available here.
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