Had you asked me five months ago to guess what will soon bring the world together, I may have naively told you that perhaps The Beatles (or who remain of them) are going to set off on a Summer 2020 global reunion tour. Like many, I could not have anticipated that instead of singing along to “Come Together” in the midst of large crowds of fans across the world, we would each be staying home alone, going out only with mouths and noses covered, all the while, too aware of how many feet remain between us and the nearest potential COVID carrier.
It has been said before but it is worth saying again- we are in an unprecedented time. Each time we turn to our devices, we are bombarded with notifications of news updates, facts, figures, correspondence, executive orders, and future predictions about the worsening of our already grim state. When we use war analogies and euphemisms like “fighting COVID-19” and “on the frontline,” it is easy to feel like our closest friends and neighbors are one cough or exhalation away from crossing into enemy territory. However, in a mere matter of months when we can again leave our homes without fear, let us remember just how small the world feels right now.
Inevitably, increasing our awareness of the true nature of our global human interdependence will also lead to an unprecedented time in bioethics. We currently use a multitude of ethical frameworks for determining the most appropriate steps in the midst of harsh circumstances. We use bioethics and public health ethics to navigate the intricacies of the human condition so that each person has a chance at flourishing. Our legislative, institutional, and personal responses in the coming months will be the guiding light for how we pave the way for future generations of communities to work together, not only in times of tragedy and national emergency, but every day. We now have a unique opportunity to reframe how we understand our obligations to our friends, colleagues, and neighbors. By the time we are able to resume our normal lives, every single person will in one way or another be affected by this pandemic but I know we will weather this intractable time of intensity and unknowns with the support of millions of hardworking, skilled clinicians, amazing technologies that allow us to see and hear our loved ones through our screens, and perhaps we will even “get by with a little help from our friends.” Cue the music.