The Ethics of Deliberate Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 to Induce Immunity

Journal of Applied Philosophy 38 (3):479-496 (2021)
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Abstract
We explore the ethics of deliberately exposing consenting adults to SARS-CoV-2 to induce immunity to the virus (“DEI” for short). We explain what a responsible DEI program might look like. We explore a consequentialist argument for DEI according to which DEI is a viable harm-reduction strategy. Then we consider a non-consequentialist argument for DEI that draws on the moral significance of consent. Additionally, we consider arguments for the view that DEI is unethical on the grounds that, given that large-scale DEI would be highly likely to result in some severe illnesses and deaths, DEI amounts to a form of killing. Our thesis is that incorporating a DEI program alongside the status-quo “calibrate-the-curve” responses could have significant advantages at the early stages of pandemics. These potential advantages mean that, at a minimum, research into DEI would have been justified early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and that DEI programs should be explored as potential additions to our overall approach to emerging pandemics in the future.
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STRTEO-38
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Archival date: 2021-01-04
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2020-12-28

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