The morality of mortality

Does our approach to Covid-19 signal that death is our last great cultural taboo?

Michael Buerk, chairman, Moral Maze

On BBC Radio’s Moral Maze this week, we took a more lateral look at the measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic by asking whether this reflected a cultural refusal to face the inevitability of death. Have we paid disproportionate attention to preventing deaths from Covid-19 to the detriment of others? Have we been, on the other hand, too dismissive of the threat to life from the virus on the basis that the majority of those who have died are very elderly? More generally, do medical doctors and people in general focus too much on prolonging life at all costs rather than upon living and dying well? Does the handling of the Covid crisis tell us that death is the last great taboo?

My co-panellists were Mona Siddiqui, Andrew Doyle and Ash Sarkar. Our witnesses were Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, adviser on medical ethics to the Church of England; Ellen Townsend, professor of psychology and director of self-harm research at Nottingham university; Dr Kathryn Mannix, consultant in palliative care; and Professor Michael Hauskeller, head of the department of philosophy at Liverpool university.

You can listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer here.

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