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Widespread social separation is rapidly becoming the norm, including closure of schools and universities, tele-commuting to work, bans on large gatherings, and millions of people isolated in their homes or make-shift facilities. Bans on international travel are already pervasive. Domestic travel restrictions are exceedingly rare, but now within the realm of possibility. Officials are even discussing cordon sanitaires (guarded areas where people may not enter or leave), popularly described as “lockdowns” or mass quarantines.

When the health system becomes stretched beyond capacity, how can we ethically allocate scarce health goods and services? How can we ensure that marginalized populations can access the care they need? What ethical duties do we owe to vulnerable people separated from their families and communities? And how do we ethically and legally balance public health with civil liberties?

Publication Citation

Lawrence O. Gostin, Eric A. Friedman & Sarah Wetter, Responding to COVID-19: How to Navigate a Public Health Emergency Legally and Ethically, Hastings Center Report (March 26, 2020)