Does solidarity contribute to health? If so, how? And the corollary: What can we learn about solidarity from health challenges? In recent years, in the wake of a series of health and environmental crises and following advances in the development of medical technology, questions regarding solidarity have become relevant to a growing number of areas in the fields of medicine and public health. The most prominent example is the return to the question of mutual responsibility and solidarity in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, access to vaccination worldwide, and the tension between public health and the rights of individuals over their bodies. The “new normal” generates a new normative array for social and political life in which the question of mutual responsibility and solidarity is crucial for coping with the current crisis and those in the future. In this context, confronting health risks is a collective effort even more than an individual endeavor. Solidarity is a key component in these collective efforts. This project will delve into current and varied manifestations of solidarity to expand our knowledge on what solidarity is and how to harness it in favor of confronting health risks.
The ethical underpinning of contending with challenges in the fields of health and medicine was formulated in the second half of the twentieth century and reflected liberal approaches to individual rights, liberty, and free will, with the aim of creating a barrier against paternalistic, and sometimes oppressive and exploitative, medicine. In this sense, bioethics, the field that seeks to establish norms of behavior in the fields of health and medicine, is liberal bioethics, which puts the individual in the center and promotes such ideas as “informed consent,” “autonomy,” and “the patient’s well-being.” In this normative framework, values that take collectives as their reference point, as equity, the public good, and solidarity are to be found, at most, on the margins. But the life experiences of recent years, the “new normal,” and the command that we “live with” a continuing state of danger to individual and public health and wellbeing require a rethinking of liberal bioethics. As part of this rethinking, we propose that solidarity is one of the collective values required of bioethics in a time of continuing crisis.
This project aims to focus on three cases, each of which emphasizes a different combination of these axes. In the context of organ donations, we will study the interplay between altruism and solidarity in living anonymous organ donors in Israel. In the context of DNA donation to biobanks we will examine the potential for achieving solidarity that looks beyond commercial interests from the perspective of a neoliberal policy. And in the context of coronavirus vaccination, we will explore how solidarity can develop from the clash between abstractions on “society” at large, and the historical and political contexts that charge this discourse with conflictual contexts.