The proper place of value judgments in public health policy and practice – reflections on the UK experience during the Covid-19 pandemic

How do we ensure the proper place and visibility of value judgements in public health policy practice?

On 23rd May 2022, we brought together a range of experts in an online conference to explore how value judgements feature in public decision-making and policy. We asked whether, and how, ethics was incorporated into practice and planning during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what this means for how we should approach bringing ethics into public health challenges in the future.

Our contributors offered a range of experience and expertise from different disciplines and have contributed in different ways to shared efforts to respond to the pandemic. We hope that lessons can be drawn from their reflections, not just to learn about what happened but also to help ensure better preparedness in our current and future policy and decision-making systems and structures.

Discussions covered a range of key themes including:

You can watch the event in full, including the discussions via the links above, or read a compilation of speaker contributions.

Choose one of the three sessions:

‘Beyond Following the Science: Value Judgements and Transparency in Pandemic Decision-Making’

  • Prof. Martin McKee – Professor of European Public Health; Medical Director, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Dr. Kamran Abbasi – Editor in Chief, British Medical Journal
  • Dr. Mehrunisha Suleman – Director of Medical Ethics and Law Education, Ethox Centre, University of Oxford

‘Challenges of Real Time Public Ethics: Incorporating Ethics Expertise in Public Decision-Making’

  • Prof. Sir Jonathan Montgomery – Professor of Health Care Law, University College London; co-Chair of DHSC Moral and Ethical Advisory Group
  • Prof. Michael Parker – Professor of Bioethics; Director, Ethox Centre, University of Oxford; Participant, SAGE
  • Dr. Heather Payne – Senior Professional Advisor, Welsh Government; Chair, Covid-19 Moral and Ethical Advisory Group for Wales

‘Anticipating, Identifying, and Responding to Ethical Controversy and Uncertainty’.

  • Prof. Ilina Singh – Principal Investigator, UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator; Professor of Neuroscience and Society, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford
  • Dr. Anjana Ahuja – Science Columnist, Financial Times; Co-Author ‘Spike: The Virus Versus the People’
  • Victoria Butler-Cole QC – Barrister, 39 Essex Chambers; Member, the Council of JUSTICE; Member, Nuffield Council on Bioethics
  • Dr. Julian Sheather – Special Advisor in ethics and human rights, British Medical Association; Ethics Advisor, Medicins Sans Frontieres

Read the individual contributions here:

John Coggon

Martin McKee

Kamran Abbasi

Mehrunisha Suleman

Jonathan Montgomery

Michael Parker

Heather Payne

Ilina Singh

Anjana Ahuja

Victoria Butler-Cole

Julian Sheather

Timestamps for the full recording, including the sessions, individual contributions, and discussions, are as follows:

0.00: Introduction

5.38: Session 1, Beyond Following the Science: Value Judgements and Transparency in Pandemic Decision-Making

6.17: Martin McKee

19.26: Kamran Abbasi

29.27: Mehrunisha Suleman

36.17: Panel 1, Discussion

54.41: Session 2, The Challenges of Real Time Public Ethics: Incorporating Ethics Expertise in Public Decision-Making

56.08: Jonathan Montgomery

1.17.36: Heather Payne

1.25.43: Michael Parker

1.34.00: Panel 2, Discussion

1.50.10: Session 3, Anticipating, Identifying, and Responding to Ethical Controversy and Uncertainty

1.50.36: Ilina Singh

2.09.07: Anjana Ahuja

2.16.33: Victoria Butler-Cole QC

2.22.15: Julian Sheather

2.27.38: Panel 3, Discussion