Questions to ponder on solitude

  1. Who are you and how are you maintaining your social distance these days?
  2. Is the individual human being the proper “unit” of (bio)ethics?
  3. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1892) posits that “[t]he solitude of the king on his throne and the prisoner in his cell differs in character and degree but it is solitude nevertheless.” What is share between these two in their lonesomeness? Do we share it here today?
  4. Leigh-Hunt et al. (2017) conclude “policy makers and health and local government commissioners should consider social isolation and loneliness as important upstream factors impacting on morbidity and mortality due to their effects on cardiovascular and mental health; their possible influence on behavioural change should also be taken note of.” With the massive upsurge in social isolation due to many state imposed “stay at home” orders, what sort of health consequences do you think will follow therefrom? How should such consequences be mitigated/dealt with?
  5. Are people more or less solitary now than they were a month ago? A year ago? A decade ago? A hundred years ago? A millennium ago? At the dawn of civilization? At the dawn of humankind?
  6. Noting that “[p]eople have biological needs for attachment, affiliation, and sociality, yet they spend time in solitude”, Long and Averill (2003) ask “[h]ow do we account for this apparent need for solitude, and what do we know about the benefits of solitude for which people are searching?”
  7. Are you an introvert or an extrovert and how do you know?
  8. Long and Averill cite studies from 1982 indicating “that adult humans spend approximately 29% of their waking time alone”. With the advent of the “flattened earth” – one interconnected by commerce and communication – do you believe adults are spending more or less of their waking time alone? As a corollary, do you believe adults have more or less “waking time” now than they did in 1982?
  9. As intimated by Callahan (2003), the field of bioethics often tries to find the balance between a patient’s autonomy – an individual’s choice for their self – and the medical enterprises paternalism – decision stemming from the field’s collective expertise. With this tension in mind, Callahan asks “[i]f , for instance, we are interested in a fair allocation of future resources, what kind of a research agenda for what kind of medical progress would most promote it?” And, perhaps more to the point, how would it best be decided?
  10. Are we born alone? Do we die alone? Where does our commune with others begin and end?
  11. Are we any closer than we once were? Are we any farther?
  12. Who are you when you are alone? Is it your “truer” self?

Questions to ponder on public health

  1. Who are you and how do you as an individual keep the public healthy?
  2. The constitutional bedrock rights of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” can be distilled as “right to live”, “right to live (generally) unencumbered”, and “right to live (generally) unencumbered the way you want.” Given this formulation, is “public health” a right of our citizens? Ought it be thought of as a positive or negative right?
  3. Wilson (2016) claims that “[t]oo little state intervention in the cause of improving population health can violate individuals’ rights, just as too much can.” Do you agree? Can you think of a time that state intervention has over/undershot the mark?
  4. What proportion of public funds ought to be spent specifically on public health measures such as those noted by Callahan and Jennings (2002): health promotion and disease prevention; risk reduction; epidemiological and other research; and structural and socioeconomic disparities?
  5. Has the “war on drugs” been an effective public health measure?
  6. How should the obesity crisis be solved?
  7. How should the opioid crisis be solved?
  8. Will the legalization of recreational marijuana improve (public) health outcomes?
  9. Are individuals carrying COVID-19 responsible/culpable for infecting others? What about those with other viral infections (e.g., the common cold, HPV, HIV)? What should be done with to those who knowingly transmit infection/disease?
  10. Noted religious charlatan and actual convicted fraud, Jim Bakker, sells (even at this moment) a “silver solution” intended to “promote natural healing”. During a screening of the hack fraud’s show, a guest claimed that it has been “tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours.” This statement prompted a warning letter from the FDA and a cease-and-desist letter from the New York Office of the Attorney General. Should people be allowed to sell snake oil during times of non-emergency? Should Bakker go to jail again?
  11. The singer Brody Dalle points out “I don’t steal the air I breathe”. But if that air is not clean, can it be said that you are free? Who is responsible for our clean air?
  12. In what way(s) should community leaders be held to account for community health disasters? For example, what should be done to state and county officials whose decisions led to the Flint water crisis? In what way(s) should private individuals and/or corporations be held responsible for public health problems? For example, what should happen to the Sackler family given their role in the opioid crisis?
  13. In the 8-1 decision of Buck v. Bell concluding “[t]he principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes”, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated the government did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment when acting “for the protection and health of the state”. Should our government be able to compel vaccination or mandate salpingectomy/vasectomy?
  14. Does climate change represent a legitimate public health crisis?
  15. Ought healthcare be universalized?