The Covid-19 pandemic created an exceptional public health situation in which health professionals, governments and the general public were faced with significant uncertainty regarding how best to proceed, and which public health interventions were justified. The numerous ethical issues that arose highlighted the important role of academic and professional bioethicists in the public space, and in policy making. Drawing on my experience as a North American academic bioethicist – who also does ethics consulting and regularly collaborates with professional ethicists – I explore some of the ways that we can carry out these different roles, mobilize our critical thinking and reflexivity, all the while maintaining our independence and credibility.
Bryn Williams-Jones PhD is a professor of Bioethics and Director of the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine in the School of Public Health (ESPUM) at the University of Montreal. Prof. Williams-Jones is interested in the socio-ethical and policy implications of health innovations in diverse contexts. His work examines the conflicts that arise in academic research and professional practice with a view to developing ethical tools to manage these conflicts when they cannot be avoided. Current projects focus on issues in professional ethics, public health ethics, research integrity and ethics education. Prof. Williams-Jones is Co-director of the Ethics Branch of the International Observatory on the Societal Impacts of AI and Digital Technology (OBVIA) and is Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Bioethics. In his bilingual blog BrynStorming, he shares his ideas on bioethics and academic life.