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Guest Scholar – Bioethics during a pandemic, with Carol Roberts Gerson, M.D., and Rabbi Gary Gerson

Sunday, October 17, 2021 11 Cheshvan 5782

11:00 AM - 12:30 PMZoom

Since February 2020, we have been immersed in a global pandemic and though we have improved in our treatment of COVID-19, the pandemic is again surging because of the Delta variant. Cases are rising and the average age of those who are ill is falling. The US has done significantly worse than other countries in case numbers and vaccine rates. 

Many bioethical issues that once seemed hypothetical were very real during the height of the pandemic. How do we distribute limited resources?  When we run out of vital supplies, space, staff, or equipment, what criteria may we ethically use to distribute scarce resources?  Do we assign a higher value to some lives? When we don’t have enough, do we use an algorithm based on medical criteria alone? Do we use a simple lottery? Do we consider social value?  
Now we have vaccine bioethical questions.  How do we distribute vaccines when they are scarce?  How do we deal with the vaccine-resistant when they put the rest of us at risk. What do our sacred texts tell us about such decisions?

We will review some of the approaches we might use to guide us when faced with crisis decisions. We will debate which of these criteria we think are ethical, and look at how Jewish sources, biblical, rabbinic and modern would have us address ethically difficult decisions.  There will be an emphasis on the ethics of vaccine distribution and also the issue of vaccine reluctance.  
Dr. Gerson is a retired pediatric otolaryngologist and an active mohelet with a doctorate in bioethics. She is a faculty member of the medical schools of Northwestern and Tulane universities.

Rabbi Gerson served as Senior Rabbi of Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion in the Chicago suburbs from 1979 to 2009. As Rabbi Emeritus, he teaches courses in Jewish text, Kabbalah, Jewish thought, and comparative religion. A Fulbright scholar, Rabbi Gerson holds master’s degrees in religion and psychology, rabbinic ordination, a doctorate in ministry, and certification as a family therapist from the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic.


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Wed, September 28 2022 3 Tishrei 5783