James Childress

James ChildressJoin us on January 10, 2022 at 12:00 noon as James Childress discusses “Ethics in the Time of Covid-19”.

Ethical challenges and controversies have erupted and continue to reverberate in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As important as public health is, it is only one important societal good, and must be balanced against other goods, such as the economy and education. Within public health, ethical debates address how to secure compliance with measures such as social distancing, masking, and vaccination. When is it ethically justifiable to move beyond persuasion, nudges, and incentives and impose mandates and sanctions to secure the public’s compliance? Beyond compliance concerns, the scarcity of therapeutic and preventive resources, such as ventilators and vaccines, has provoked debates about fair and equitable allocation, especially because structural injustices appear to cause higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death among people of color. Finally, the pandemic has had major impact on religious practices. Key ethical and legal controversies focus on restrictions on worship services and on claims for exemption from vaccine mandates because of religious objections. This presentation provides an overview of key ethical issues in the time of Covid-19, while four follow-up seminars in subsequent weeks will explore several issues more deeply and interactively.

James (Jim) Childress is University Professor Emeritus at UVA where he was the John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics, Professor of Religious Studies, Professor of Public Policy, and Professor of Research in Medical Education in the School of Medicine. He was the founding director of the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life, and he chaired the Department of Religious Studies for over a decade. He received the Thomas Jefferson Award in 2002.

In addition to his time spent teaching in his 44 years at UVA, Childress has published several books and numerous articles on topics in ethics and bioethics. His best-known book is Principles of Biomedical Ethics, with Tom L. Beauchamp, first published in 1979 with an 8th edition in 2019 and a dozen translations into other languages.

In the weeks following the initial presentation, Jim Childress will lead four highly interactive online seminars on specific pandemic-related ethical topics. Seminar dates and topics appear below. Participants must RSVP to join the seminar series within this registration form.

  • You are invited to participate in any or all seminars, but you must register in advance for each session in order to receive the Zoom invitation.
  • Each seminar is limited to 20 enrollees. If necessary, waiting lists will be developed.
  • All participants must attend the initial presentation on January 10, “Ethics in the Time of Covid-19,” or view the video recording when it becomes available shortly afterwards.
  • Each seminar is independent of the other seminars.
  • For each seminar, short readings will be made available in advance to session participants.
  • To sign up for the seminars, RSVP on the January 10 presentation’s registration form

17 January, 12:00 noon: Respecting Liberty and Protecting Public Health: Securing Compliance with Public Health Directives
31 January, 12:00 noon: Fairly Allocating Ventilators and Vaccines, and Other Scarce Resources
14 February, 12:00 noon: Attending to Religious and Global Perspectives and Conflicts
21 February, 12:00 noon: Making Meaning and Value through Stories: Narrative Ethics in the Pandemic