Medicine Masked: Ethical Implications of Half-Hidden Faces During a Pandemic

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, in combination with handwashing and eye protection, face masks have become necessary apparel for healthcare professionals to prevent transmission of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).[2] As the mouth both breathes and speaks, a barrier to potentially infectious respiratory droplets can also be a barrier to communication. This is obvious to the hearing-impaired, who rely on reading lips to interpret words they cannot clearly hear. Masks also modify communication in subtle ways in which the wearer may be unaware. The masking of facial expressions can alter how the wearer is perceived.

Proposed Surgery During an International Pandemic


Is it ever appropriate to perform a surgical procedure if it is not medically necessary?


Nathaniel is presently an active 21-month-old infant. Overall, he has done exceedingly well since birth and has required no hospitalizations or surgeries. After the first several months of life, he began to develop increasing difficulty with nasal symptoms and sleeping difficulties, and ultimately developed perforated eardrums after having had several episodes of otitis media and treatment with appropriate antibiotics. There seemed, however, to be no problem with the infant’s hearing. Nathaniel’s father also had problems with his ears as a child, and ultimately required a tympanostomy tube placement.

The Ethics of Naming Epidemics

Epidemics and pandemics have profoundly shaped the course of human history. Naming them has ethical consequences because of the value laden in words. Nuances of language can themselves be contagious, influencing attitudes toward people, nations, and other qualities that may be incidental to the initiation or propagation of an infectious disease. A poorly chosen name for an infectious outbreak can divide communities at a time when people should be coming together and collaborating for the sake of the common good. Striving for objectivity in language is helpful, but it is also insufficient, for it omits the ethical framework needed to respond to a pandemic and does not adequately address the meaning of suffering.