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Postgrad Med J ; 97(1144): 119-122, 2021 Feb.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-873586


The Birkenhead drill states that in the time of crisis, the correct action is to prioritise the weakest and most vulnerable, in that example, women and children. Ethically this has been well analysed in terms of the intrinsic value of the human versus any utilitarian calculus of worth to society's function. We do not attempt to re-analyse this but do note that standard pandemic planning often disadvantages the weak and vulnerable in terms of allocation of resources to those with a greater chance of functional survival. We more argue from a debt that society owes its children in terms of the sacrifices they have made in terms of school, social life, healthcare and overall welfare during the pandemic from which they were at markedly less risk than adults. Society owes a debt to its young, and this on top of pre-existing commitments to the them that most nations fail to realise, calls for prioritisation of children and young people's issues as society rebuilds. The effects of poverty and systemic racism on many children must be tackled; so too the existential threats of climate change and pollution. COVID-19 provides a once in a generation opportunity to create a kinder, fairer society. Early signs are not good: Pub re-opening prioritised over school re-opening; no significant investment in children's services or women's health, a significant determinant of children's welfare. We highlight the way COVID-19 has, and continues, to harm children and argue that the contemporary erosion of the Birkenhead principle is simply amoral.

COVID-19/therapy , Child Health/ethics , Communicable Disease Control , Delivery of Health Care/ethics , Morals , Women's Health/ethics , Adolescent , Adult , COVID-19/diagnosis , COVID-19/epidemiology , Child , Female , Humans