Thursday, May 20, 2010

Value, Cost, and Ethics

Blog readers interested in the intersection of health crises and aviation may wish to read Lucy Budd et al.'s Value, Cost and Ethics: UK Airports and the Governance of Pandemic H1N1 Risk (May 13, 2010) (available from SSRN here).  From the abstract:

The outbreak and subsequent worldwide spread of pandemic influenza H1N1, popularly known as ‘swine flu’, from the spring of 2009 has illustrated our continued microbial vulnerability in a highly interconnected aeromobile world. The UK has been particularly affected by the first ‘wave’ of infection, with some commentators suggesting this was an inevitable consequence of the country’s status as a hub of global air communications. Given that the virus was almost certainly brought to the UK by holidaymakers returning from Mexico, the role of the UK airport as the ‘first line’ of defence against the importation of infectious disease has been subject to particular scrutiny. An important debate has subsequently emerged surrounding the ‘rights’ of airline passengers to move unimpeded through the world’s airports (without being subjected to medical screening) against the ‘rights’ of individual nations to be protected from the spread of infection through the employment of ‘strict’ screening practices. Focusing on concepts of ‘value’ and ‘cost’, as applied to individual ‘forms of life’, we consider how the governance of H1N1 risk at UK airports has generated a set of complex and interlocking biopolitical and ethical concerns associated with the safeguarding of the national border. We conclude by indicating how this tension, between securing and ethically valuing life, may inform future UK policy responses to infectious disease control at its international airports. One means is through a process of policy transfer.

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