From the suffering of the pandemic comes the possibility of building a reimagined world, writes, Prof Keymanthri Moodley of Stellenbosch University. It will require addressing "rife and ubiquitous" levels of distrust in science, governance, law enforcement and political leadership, including the "seriously undermined credibility" of the World Health Organisation.
The analysis of Prof Moodley, of the Centre for Medical Ethics and Law, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences at Stellenbosch, was published in the in the University of South Africa's Social Health Sciences.
Over the past year, the world has experienced colliding pandemics of viral outbreaks and injustice – social and health inequities, gender-based violence, marginalisation of immigrant populations, racial discrimination. All of this was superimposed on an ever-worsening climate crisis. This is not the first viral pandemic neither will it be the last. The collective moral injury experienced by the global community requires recalibrating for life in an inter-pandemic world, moving beyond self-interest and building trust as an ethical imperative. Central to this recalibration is assumption of responsibility to future generations – intergenerational justice. Not only does such an ethics of responsibility enhance mutuality and reciprocity, it is also synchronous with African philosophical thinking, which supports interdependence in this world and is firmly rooted in ancestral worlds and future worlds.
On building trust as an ethical imperative in the health sector, Moodley writes:
"Distrust in science, governance, law enforcement and political leadership is rife and ubiquitous. Many unanswered questions linger about the origin of SARS-CoV-2, various health advisories issued by the WHO and world leaders, flawed science, retracted publications in prominent international journals and accelerated pathways to drug development and approval.
"As we emerge from the second wave of the pandemic, with several efficacious COVID-19 vaccines available under emergency use authorisation, it is more imperative than ever that high levels of trust are built. Building trust will be the cornerstone of our medical, social and economic recovery. Civil society has to engage in conversations about public interest, the common good and decisions that affect people’s lives.
"The credibility of the WHO, in particular, has been called into question. The WHO, as a critical international health governance body, needs to engage in serious introspection to rebuild trust in the global health community if it wishes to remain relevant in an inter-pandemic world. If the WHO wishes to maintain its legitimacy on a global platform, an objective independent review is non- negotiable."