American Journal of Bioethics.

“Listen to the People”: Public Deliberation about Social Distancing Measures in a Pandemic

Public engagement in ethically laden pandemic planning decisions may be important for transparency, creating public trust, improving compliance with public health orders, and ultimately, contributing to just outcomes. We conducted focus groups with members of the public to characterize public perceptions about social distancing measures likely to be implemented during a pandemic. Participants expressed concerns about job security and economic strain on families if businesses or school closures are prolonged. They shared opposition to closure of religious organizations, citing the need for shared support and worship during times of crises. Group discussions elicited evidence of community-mindedness (e.g., recognition of an extant duty not to infect others), while some also acknowledged strong self-interest. Participants conveyed desire for opportunities for public input and education, and articulated distrust of government. Social distancing measures may be challenging to implement and sustain due to strains on family resources and lack of trust in government.

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Volume 9, Issue 11
November 2009