Ethics in the News: Vaccine Passports, Research Ethics, Ethical Shopping, AI Ethics, & More – April 9, 2021


Jabs vs. Jab-Nots: Vaccine Passports Will Exclude Less Fortunate
“On March 15, Britain’s Parliament turned to the question of the moment: how to reopen pubs, cinemas, and soccer stadiums. Almost half the adult population, after all, has gotten a Covid-19 shot, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that the end of the crisis “really is in sight.” At the heart of the discussion was the “vaccine passport,” a smartphone app or a slip of paper that would attest to inoculation, granting bearers the freedom to travel, go to concerts and cafes, or even just return to the office. Yet what sounds like a practical solution to an unprecedented problem opens the door to a host of ethical and legal concerns.”

Global Vaccine Equity Is Much More Important Than ‘Vaccine Passports’
“As the U.S. and U.K. vaccinate their populations much faster than initially anticipated, two disparate concepts have been swirling online in English-language vaccine discourse: the moral need for global vaccine equity and the consumer-driven desire for vaccine passports.”

Vaccine Passports, Covid’s Next Political Flash Point
“A world divided between the vaccinated and unvaccinated promises relief for economies and families, but the ethical and practical risks are high.”

US experts tackle ethical dilemmas posed by the vaccine rollout
“The ethical questions the vaccine rollout presents are many and complex. Al Jazeera posed some to a few experts: Rosell, also a clinical professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center; Dr Jonathan Marron, a bioethicist at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics; and Dr Laurie Zoloth, Margaret E Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics at the University of Chicago.”

Your employer can ask whether you’ve received the coronavirus vaccine — and even require it
“In fact, Art Caplan, a professor of bioethics and head of the division of medical ethics at New York University School of Medicine, thinks the vaccine will become “a ticket to hiring.”

“Some businesses are going to be able to make a convincing ethical case that you better be vaccinated to protect your co-workers and protect your customers,” he explained. “I think it will become pretty routine.””

Is it ever OK to jump the vaccine line? We asked an ethicist
“Eventually, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) — the group that actually develops recommendations for vaccine usage — issued its guidelines. At the top of the list, in Phase 1a: health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Next was Phase 1b, which included people 75 years and older and frontline essential workers who didn’t work in the health care sector. Following that, Phase 1c included people 65 to 74, people ages 16 to 64 with high-risk medical conditions and other essential workers.”

Why the credibility of AstraZeneca’s vaccine data matters
“The world desperately needs to be able to believe in AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine, and the never-ending confusion over its clinical data isn’t helping.

Covid-19 vaccine shortages: what is the cause and what are the implications?
“Covid-19 vaccine shortage not only entails organizational issues, but also difficult choices in establishing priorities for the administration of the vaccine. The vaccination campaign has taken off with country-by-country different modalities (1). However, we have the evidence that every full dose of vaccine (2) can prevent a new infection, a new admission to hospital or to intensive care unit, and can make the difference between life and death.”

Europe’s Vaccine Ethics Call: Do No Harm and Let More Die?
“Ethicists are worried about the gamble Germany took to halt AstraZeneca doses over seven cases of blood clots. It will not be the last time hard decisions are made in this pandemic.”

Bioethics and Research Ethics

Spain legalises euthanasia and assisted suicide
“Spanish MPs on Thursday legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with serious and incurable or debilitating diseases who want to end their life, despite facing strong opposition from religious groups and the far-right.”

A bioethicist warns that informed consent is endangered
“Michael Hickson, a father of five living in Texas, was one of millions of Americans who contracted covid-19 in 2020. The 46-year-old African American, who had become a quadriplegic after having a heart attack while driving in 2017, died in June at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, six days after the hospital ended treatment for him. Before his death, Michael’s wife, Melissa, met with his attending physician, who she says decided against the further treatment she had requested because he had no “quality” of life.”

Pre-embryos made in lab could spur research, ethics debates
“For the first time, scientists have used human cells to make structures that mimic the earliest stages of development, which they say will pave the way for more research without running afoul of restrictions on using real embryos.”

Justice, diversity, and research ethics review
“The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on certain populations, such as Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations in the United States, has focused attention on inequalities in health and on the need to increase enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups in biomedical research.”

As bioengineering advances, Biden should reestablish the President’s Council on Bioethics
“All new technologies raise major ethnical concerns; however, few come close to the tantalizing issues that advances in biological engineering raise. Genetic engineering is no longer a science-fiction phenomenon. The creation of CRISPR technology – a molecular tool that can edit specific sections of DNA – has allowed bioengineers to edit the genome of somatic stem cells and germ cells. Interventions in the former have been used to cure people of diseases such as sickle cell, and interventions in the latter – also known as germline editing – can be used to create inheritable changes in the DNA; that is, affect the genetic composition of all future generations. We are becoming our own Darwin.”

Politics, Law, and Business

Washington BLM Alliance files ethics complaints against lawmakers
“The Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance has filed ethics complaints against three Republican state lawmakers, claiming their questioning in public hearings was “discriminatory,” and offensive toward people of color.”

Elaine Chao’s Mix of Work and Family Drew Early Ethics Scrutiny
“An inspector general’s report provided new details of how ethics lawyers at the Transportation Department raised flags starting in 2017 about efforts to promote her family and its shipping business.”

Thrifting and its Importance for Low-Income Communities
“Recently, thrifting exploded in the eyes of younger generations as a way to express oneself fashionably, inexpensively and sustainably. However, thrifting has always served low-income communities. While local thrift stores struggle to balance these different consumers, their overall missions remain.”

Alternatives to Amazon that deliver on value and ethics
“The site has seen spikes in interest from consumers throughout the last year as people have more time to think about their purchases, he says, and are more attuned to other options when shopping. “Most people would like to do the right thing, weighing up both the financial and time constraints. In normal life, convenience is key. Maybe the pandemic has made more time.””


The ethics of consent within social media research and AI: Exploitation of vulnerable?
“The proliferation of social media use during the pandemic offers a way to observe information about the pandemic directly from the population and could give researchers real time health data on populations. The information on social media platforms has become a potential dataset.”

Google might ask questions about AI ethics, but it doesn’t want answers
“The paper has four co-authors, two from the University of Washington, and two from Google – Dr Timnit Gebru and Dr Margaret Mitchell. It provides a useful critical review of machine-learning language models (LMs) like GPT-3, which are trained on enormous amounts of text and are capable of producing plausible-looking prose. The amount of computation (and associated carbon emissions) involved in their construction has ballooned to insane levels, and so at some point it’s sensible to ask the question that is never asked in the tech industry: how much is enough?”

Groups Call for Ethical Guidelines on Location-Tracking Tech
“The Locus Charter is not a set of laws or rules, but 10 guidelines meant to steer an organization’s thinking on the ethical use of location data. The points include protecting vulnerable people and understanding how location data sets can be combined with other data to identify individuals.”


APS Sharpens Focus on Ethical Conduct in Physics
“The APS Council adopted comprehensive guidelines for scientific integrity and professional conduct in April 2019. But for much of its history, physics had no formal standards of ethical behavior.”

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