Synopsis: The year 2020 will go down in the history of humankind as one of its biggest civilizational crises. In addition to the challenges it poses to global livelihoods, economy, governance & social order, COVID-19 has posed a massive challenge to healthcare. Besides putting a huge strain on its capacity & delivery it is also testing its ethical framework as never before. This is not entirely surprising.
The Indian subcontinent has been a hotspot for both the infection as well as for its collateral damage. It has also been an arena for multiple humanitarian tragedies. With the focus of the public health discourse being on testing, isolation, prevention, treatment & vaccination it is inevitable that several ethical issues have been emerged. These have been addressed sporadically but need dissection & prioritization. More importantly these need to be highlighted in an organized manner.
At the Forum for Medical Ethics Society (FMES) - and its two platforms – the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (IJME) and Health, Ethics and Law (HEaL) Institute - we realized that there is an urgent need to identify & reassert ethical & humanitarian issues around the pandemic especially its impact on health care in South Asia through a multisectoral dialogues. It seems that this challenge is going to be with us for some time to come.
Many of you are aware of the National Bioethics Conference (NBC) we organise every two years. Towards this end we are announcing 8th NBC on the theme: Crisis within a crisis: The scientific, ethical & humanitarian challenge of COVID-19.
Format: The usual NBC is for two and half consecutive days. It also hosts multiple events in that short time, with keynote addresses in plenary sessions, parallel scientific sessions for presentation of papers, parallel workshops, pre-and-post conference and satellite sessions. We also have simultaneous art and humanities conference.
This year, the 8th NBC would be a simpler and shorter virtual event, rolling over four Saturdays, but at the same time it will have sharper focus on the theme which has a certain urgency and will create a platform for debate & consensus on some critical issues.