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Spring 2021 Advisory

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Tune In: Health and Human Rights in the Era of COVID-19

The Bioethics program is hosting an online webinar on 4/16 from 6:15 - 7:45 EDT, "Health and Human Rights in the Era of COVID-19: What Are the Ethical Issues?"  

The program will examine critical ethical issues concerning COVID-19 in the US and the developing world, with:

  • Unni Karunakara, MBBS, MPH, DrPH, former International President, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders
  • Stephen Morse, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University; author,  "Emerging Viruses" (selected as one of the "Top 100 Science Books of the 20th Century").
  • Kenneth Prager, MD, Director of Clinical Ethics and Chair, Clinical Ethics Committee, Columbia University Medical Center
  • David Wohl, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC, co-founder, #whitecoatoutrage

RSVP for the event here.

Dr. Robert Klitzman, Academic Director of the Bioethics program, has discussed the complex ethical concerns of the ongoing coronavirus crisis with various news outlets. 

In an op-ed for Psychology Today, Dr. Klitzman explores how history can help us understand and cope with COVID-19. As long as the human race has interacted with animals, we have acquired new infections. Wars and trade have worked to disseminate these pathogens across the globe. Cooperation between scientists has helped lead to vaccinations and a greater understanding of infectious diseases over the last century. When governments ignore threats from these scientists and don't provide funding for necessary research, and when corporations put profits before precautions, we are left unprepared for these new infectious diseases. 

Humans have defeated microbes in the past through bravery and close international collaboration. Efforts to conquer COVID19, too, could potentially bring us together, uniting us as a species. 

— Dr. Robert Klitzman, Psychology Today

Read the full article in Psychology Today

Dr. Klitzman weighed into the discussion, "How Do You Choose Who Gets a Ventilator?" on He said there is precedent in how medical staff decides who gets priority to medical treatment in the wake of an equipment shortage. Factors such as a patient's SOFA score and a hospital triage committee could determine which patients are prioritized. 

Priority absolutely should not be given to who can afford it, what kind of insurance you have, whether you’re rich or poor, your ethnicity, your race, or your gender.

— Dr. Robert Klitzman,

Read Dr. Klitzman's full comments on

Learn more about the M.S. in Bioethics program at Columbia University's School of Professional Studies.