Navigating ethics in a pandemic—Contempt for the weak versus love of neighbor in a Swedish lens

Article by Sigurd Bergmann in Dialog.

The article draws on the author’s observations and reflections about Sweden’s pandemic management from February 2020 to June 2021. It does not simply interpret the lessons one can learn from the Swedish biopolitical experiment, but focuses on some central ethical challenges that every nation had to face in an accelerating pandemic. The intention with such a sharp critical discussion of the Swedish experience is to clarify some of the crucial ethical dilemmas and abysses in pandemic ethics. One article cannot possibly cover the wide and deep agenda for all complex ethical dimensions in a pandemic. This contribution in particular explores why the method of natural herd immunization is unethical, and what kind of legal and ethical aspects are relevant in international law and the WHO’s ethical codex for a pandemic. In a Christian perspective it seems not at all strange to approach the theme of pandemic ethic also with theological arguments. A creator God who became flesh is deeply involved in our bodily world and life. What counts as health therefore appears to be a central issue for believers and faith communities, as is faith in a God who bodily cares for and liberates God’s creation in all its dimensions. The exploration of Sweden’s pandemic experiment flows into a plea for to apply the triple command of love sharpened by the command of love of the poor and vulnerable, and concludes with a short meta-ethical reflection on the need of aesth/ethical imagination of the other.