Race, Power, and COVID-19: A Call for Advocacy within Bioethics

Am J Bioeth. 2021 Feb;21(2):11-18. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2020.1851810. Epub 2020 Dec 8.


Events in 2020 have sparked a reimagination of how both individuals and institutions should consider race, power, health, and marginalization in society. In a response to these developments, we examine the current and past limitations of the ways in which bioethicists have considered race and, more generally, discourses of marginalization. We argue that the foundational principle of justice necessitates that bioethics, as an institution, maintain an active voice against systemic injustice. To carry out this charge, bioethics as a field should promote alternative narratives-"counter storytelling"-to the mainstream voices that have traditionally been heard and accepted, largely without opposition. Additionally, we engage with both Post-Colonial and Critical Race Theory, which we believe are important tools for bioethics in pursuit of equity. Ultimately, we advocate for a proactive form of bioethics that actively resists and denounces injustice and which considers a much wider variety of voices about justice than bioethics has historically considered.

Keywords: Bioethics; COVID-19; Critical Race Theory; Discrimination; Health Equity; Inequity; Justice; Narrative Ethics; Post-Colonial Theory; Postcolonialism; Race; Racism; Research Ethics.

MeSH terms

  • Bioethics*
  • COVID-19*
  • Ethicists
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Justice