The COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous ethical and legal challenges for health and healthcare in the UK and globally. Focusing primarily on England and Wales, colleagues in the Centre have undertaken a range of work to help address some of these challenges for patients, families, and staff, particularly as they arise in the clinical setting.

COVID-19, Healthcare Ethics and Law

The ethical and legal aspects of healthcare during COVID-19 need careful attention. Colleagues in the Centre have not only been doing their best to support their loved ones, students, and one another, but have also been working hard to support patients and professionals, through a range of clinical, research and advisory endeavours.

Professor Richard Huxtable, Director, Centre for Ethics in Medicine

Advice and Support

Centre PhD students Helen Smith, Pam Cairns, Guy Schofield, Bert Vanderhaegen, and Harleen Johal have extended their clinical work during the pandemic. 

Professor Huxtable, Professor Ives, Dr Birchley, Dr Deans, and Corinna Chandler have also been working with various local, regional, and national groups to help navigate COVID-19. Examples include local clinical ethics committees, the BMA, Royal Colleges, the UK Clinical Ethics Network, NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG, and the newly formed South West Ethical Reference Group and Devon Ethical Reference Group. 

Activities have included providing clinical ethics support, advising on guidance for health and social care, and participating in public engagement events designed to ensure that patients, service users, and the public at large can inform health and social care during the pandemic. 


COVID-19 has, inevitably, impacted on ongoing research in the Centre; while some projects have paused, many have had to be reconfigured. Colleagues have also undertaken fresh research, which seeks to address some of the ethical and legal dimensions of the pandemic. 

A team led by Professor Huxtable (including Dr Birchley, Professor Ives, Dr Kennedy and Mrs Smith from the CEM) is working on a rapid project, COVID-19 Clinical Ethics Support (CCES), kindly supported by the University’s Elizabeth Blackwell Institute. You can read more about the project here

Professor Ives has been advising on the ethical aspects of the Octavia study, which is exploring patient involvement in treatment escalation decisions for COVID-19 patients. 

Colleagues have also published a range of articles, which examine professional ethical guidance on COVID-19, surgery during the pandemic, and – in an article by two of the Centre’s BABEL-funded PhD students – the impact of the pandemic on decision-making for those who lack mental capacity.



Television and radio appearances

J.Ives.  Euronews.  12/03/2021.  Interview on Covid-19 vaccinations for Olympic athletes.  Live.
J. Ives. Tom Swabrick show, LBC. 12/02/2021.  Interview on ethics and vaccine passports.  Live.
J. Ives. Iain Dale show, LBC. 08/12/2020. Interview on Covid-19 vaccine and ethics. Live.
J. Ives. BBC Radio Bristol. 04/12/2020. Discussion about CQC interim report on DNARCPR during Covid-19. Live.
J. Ives. Today Programme. BBC Radio Four. 27/05/2020. Discussion on the ethics of vaccine challenge trials. Live.
J. Ives. Sky News. 24/05/2020. On the ethics of vaccine challenge trials. Live
J. Ives. Today Programme. BBC Radio Four. 26/03/2020. On Government’s lack of ethical leadership. Roger Harrabin report. 
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