Lecturer - The University of Manchester
Securing Cities Against Global Pandemics (Simon Fellowship Award, 2016-2019)
The aim of my stay at the Brocher Foundation is to work on the ethical, legal and social implications of pandemic response and preparedness. Specifically, I would use my stay to write an article that looks at the ethical and social tensions that are likely to arise in connection to pandemic response and, importantly, to pandemic planning too. The article would be based on my three year research, which considers the following dimensions:
• How is pandemic risk framed in media and policy discourse in the West? (theme A)
• What protocols and best practices are circulated in the West by international organisations? (theme B)
• Smarting up cities: what lessons from other cities (i.e. Singapore and Hong Kong) can be learnt? What are the implications of their implementation in the West? (theme C)
• Technoscience: what is the role of technology in securitising Western cities against pandemics today? (theme D)
• Vaccines: does vaccine research play a role in the securitisation of Western cities? (theme E)
The article would draw on existing literature around pandemics, focusing in particular on four areas of concern, around (1) restriction to personal freedom (aka autonomy) vis a vis public protection, including concerns around the potential for discrimination and stigma; (2) duty of care for health professionals vis a vis a right to reciprocity; (3) fairness and equity in the setting of priorities and allocation of finite resources; (4) duty to exercise international cooperation and the global dimensions of pandemics.
In the article I will also review guidelines that are diffused by organisations at various level. Under the aegis of the WHO networks for infectious disease surveillance and response have been developed. Most nations, and certainly all Western nations, have developed plans to mitigate this risk. Although these plans may not always have been tested through simulations, and despite the declared intention of many national governments to cooperate and coordinate response internationally, these plans will shape response at national level.
The paper that I will complete at the Brocher Foundation will integrate the dimensions above with an analysis of the findings from my expert and elite interviews (both those that I have already conducted and those that I am to conduct in 2018) with a wide range of pandemic preparedness experts, medical and other professionals.
The wider purpose of my work on pandemics is to draw attention to the social and ethical dimensions and impacts of preparedness, and therefore the Brocher paper is going to be central to my argument that alongside medical and other expert knowledge, sociological knowledge also ought to inform the planning debate, not least because it can render explicit the values and priorities inbuilt in current preparedness strategies. It can help identify the ethical and social impacts of the mitigation planning measure proposed, and generate a better understanding of the (often unintended) social impacts resulting from the measure adopted during previous pandemics. Even more importantly, it can help identify more socially resilient solutions, that are not just clinically sound, but also socially robust and equitable.
The objective of the paper is also to showcase in a convincing and compelling way that it is important to involve members of the public, alongside all other stakeholders (from the medical professionals likely to be on the frontline of a potential emergency, to other service providers and emergency officers that will be called upon) in open and transparent debate over the planning that is ongoing, the setting of its priorities and the principles that ought to guide the allocation of scarce resources. Only an inclusive and sustained public engagement can contribute to ensure that both preparedness planning and the deployment decisions that are actually taken in the event of a pandemic are socially robust - procedurally fair and equitable, transparent and open to redress.