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Ethics and politics of infection

The Ethics and Politics of Infection node focusses on the ethical and policy implications of preparedness and response strategies designed to deal with infectious disease challenges in Australia and globally.

This includes new genomics and surveillance technologies, targeted vaccination programs and infection control measures introduced to prevent pathogen transmission in various settings including healthcare, agriculture or landscape management. The node brings together University of Sydney researchers in public health ethics, social sciences, economics, medicine, infectious diseases, agriculture, environmental and veterinary sciences to address today’s infectious diseases challenges of emerging or re-emerging pathogens, AMR and infections that predominantly impact vulnerable populations.

Ethics of infectious disease surveillance

Our ability to protect the public from infectious diseases has been advanced by new genomics and data technologies that enable enhanced surveillance, contact tracing and tailored outbreak responses. However, ethical considerations such as privacy, social disruption and unintended health and economic impacts need to be examined so that these technologies can be implemented in ways that maximise benefits to public health. Delphi studies, citizen juries and discrete choice experiments led by Lyn Gilbert, Chris Degeling and Jane Johnson are assessing the limits of public acceptance for linking personal and pathogen genomics data. These qualitative research efforts complement ethical framework analyses of the issue led by Sydney Health Ethics Director, Angus Dawson. Together, these ethical enquiries will inform the development of surveillance technology guidelines that expertly balance individual risk and community benefit for prevention of infectious disease outbreaks.

COVID-19 ethics and social issues webinar - Marie Bashir Institute

Hosted by the Ethics and Politics of Infection Node at the Marie Bashir Institute on 1 April 2020, this webinar discusses the many ethical issues within clinical care, public health, research, and wider society in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Webinar Expert Panel

  • Angus Dawson PhD is Professor of Bioethics and Director of Sydney Health Ethics at the University of Sydney. The focus of his research for over twenty years has been on ethical issues in public and global health, including collaborative work with the World Health Organization, Médecins Sans Frontières, and the Australian Federal Department of Health.
  • Diego Silva, PhD, is a Lecturer in Bioethics at Sydney Health Ethics, University of Sydney. His research focuses on a wide range of ethical and political challenges related to infectious diseases. Dr. Silva has worked with the World Health Organization on numerous topics related to public health, including tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. He is also a member of the Public Health Ethics Consultative Group at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Jane Williams PhD is a postdoctoral researcher at Sydney Health Ethics and the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. Her broad research focus is public health ethics and draws on years living and working in southeast Asia and the Pacific. Recent work includes projects on planning for infectious disease emergencies.
  • Lyn Gilbert MBBS, MD, FRACP, FRCPA, is an infectious disease physician and clinical microbiologist, whose major research and clinical interests, over many years, have focused on surveillance, prevention, control, management and ethical implications of infectious diseases. She has been a member of numerous advisory committees and expert groups formed to develop preparedness plans to guide Australia’s response to threatened infectious disease emergencies and pandemics. She is currently a member of several national committees tasked with developing policies to deal with the serious COVID-19 pandemic, which are grappling with innumerable difficult ethical decisions balancing medical/scientific priorities, with serious threats to employment, social cohesion, civil liberties, education and the economy