Celeste McGovern

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The ethics of utilitarianism and the vaccine ‘war’ against coronavirus

The 'greater good' argument is flawed because it assumes an injustice is acceptable if it produces a net benefit.
Thu Apr 1, 2021 - 6:08 pm EST
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Children's Health Defense

LifeSiteNews has produced an extensive COVID-19 vaccines resources page. View it here. 

April 1, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Deaths in the United States associated with coronavirus vaccines reported to the government's adverse event collection system reached 1,920 in just over three months, which is more than twice the number of deaths reported in the U.S. for all vaccines during the previous six years (941). 

These statistics, along with personal stories from some of those who have lost loved ones unexpectedly after they received a COVID shot, have made it difficult to dismiss these stories as out-of-hand “fake news,” so some media have switched from denying that serious vaccine adverse events even exist to spreading the message that vaccine-related deaths are simply a necessary “sacrifice” for most people to benefit. 

That was the language of Norwegian television presenter Linn Wiik, who wrote a column last week for Norway's TV 2 titled “I would love to die from the AstraZeneca vaccine,” for example.

“Some must be sacrificed in the war against the corona,” Wiik wrote. “That's the way it is in all wars. This time, it may well be me."
Wiik was writing in response to the recent accounts in the media of people who were hospitalized and died from brain blood clots after receiving a shot of AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine. Germany and Canada have both restricted distribution to those under ages 60 and 55, respectively, as a result.

Death reports included that of a 57-year-old Italian music teacher and a 60-year-old Danish woman

“Sorry to say it so bluntly,” Wiik wrote: “Someone has to sacrifice in order for the rest to be safe.”

‘Greater good’ argument moves to vaccine narrative

Public health and mainstream media have evoked a war-time British-Blitz-style spirit of self-sacrifice since the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns that helped to persuade people to accept shuttered businesses, loss of freedom, slashed incomes, and isolation to protect the common good of “public health.”

“Not since World War II, when people carried ration books with stamps that allowed them to purchase meat, sugar, butter, cooking oil and gasoline, when buying cars, firewood and nylon was restricted, when factories converted from making automobiles to making tanks, Jeeps and torpedoes, when men were drafted and women volunteered in the war effort, has the entire nation been asked to sacrifice for a greater good,” FOX News’s Frank Miles wrote a year ago.

Now the “greater good” argument is moving into the vaccination narrative. The term has come up before in Catholic conversations about vaccination. “I would argue that there is a rationale rooted in social justice that people should get their children vaccinated for the greater good,” Dr. Paul Cieslak, a Catholic infectious disease specialist with the Oregon Health Authority, told Catholic News Agency a year ago, echoing a common sentiment.

Utilitarianism

“Greater good” is the central principle of the flawed and inherently un-Catholic doctrine of utilitarianism, however. “Utilitarian reasoning is strictly the greatest good for the greatest number,” said Joseph Meaney, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. 

“It is not acceptable for Catholics because it accepts that injustice can be done if this injustice produces a net benefit,” Meaney explained.

Catholics could never accept a utilitarian proposition to execute an innocent person in exchange for the release of 10 hostages who would otherwise be executed, for example. Nor should anyone kill themselves to save the lives of more people waiting on organ donor lists, as another example. In fact, it would be sinful. 

In utilitarianism, the balance of happiness over harm supports your death if it benefits more people than you – good so long as you are not the minority.

But what about Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice of His death on the cross for us which every Mass perpetually offers and we recall particularly during Holy Week? Are we called to make a similar sacrifice of ourselves on a vaccine altar?

“Jesus had no moral obligation to do this; it was a free gift coming from the infinite love of God,” Meaney said.

“It is also quite clear that there is no moral obligation to take vaccines and no moral obligation not to take them. We are in the realm of prudential and conscientious discernment, where each person must try to obtain the best most objective facts possible and make a decision with a well-formed conscience.”

The Church seems to have conflicting opinions on this. A 2017 document on vaccines from the Pontifical Academy for Life describes a “moral obligation to guarantee the vaccination coverage necessary for the safety of others … especially the safety more vulnerable subjects such as pregnant women and those affected by immunodeficiency who cannot be vaccinated against these diseases.”

Yet in this document the Academy accepts the data from public health entities that vaccination is “safe and effective” and that “the events that occur most commonly are mild and due to an immune response to the vaccine itself.”

So the Academy dismisses the 6,844 reported deaths since 1990 to the U.S. government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and of the 12,660 permanent disabilities as “mild” expected vaccine reactions. It has accepted the ruling of public health figures on the inconsequence of these people’s misfortunes, from the same public health “experts” who have denied the humanity of the unborn for decades and have said that abortion does not kill a human being. These same officials and agencies deem pharmaceutical birth control a necessity, abortion an essential service, and euthanasia a kindness.

If adults want to accept the public health risk/benefit analysis for the coronavirus and its experimental vaccines, they are free to do so, but for them to make a “sacrifice” they first must be given enough information to give informed consent. People who take the shot have to know the true risk that they face when they do so.

Norway’s TV presenter Wiik may want to take the small risk that 32 reported European blood clot cases represented, but she didn’t say she was aware of 2,050 other COVID-vaccine deaths reported to VAERS. She seemed unaware of the 594 COVID vaccine-associated deaths reported to the government in the U.K. alone since December. If she is, it is up to her.

What is more troubling is that we are on the threshold of having mandates for vaccines in which there is no choice in our “sacrifice.” We may be coerced to take unknown and known risks with vaccines – perhaps annually or more depending on how badly the first round of vaccines fail or foster new “variant” viruses – for a virus that most of us might never know we had if we were infected. If we pay with our lives or are disabled permanently, then that is just the price we have to pay because public health demands it.

What is even more troubling than that is that trials on COVID vaccines in children have begun. The rapacious drug companies say that these shots are effective in preventing disease in children who almost never get the disease to begin with – and have virtually zero risk of dying from it. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s own best estimates state that the infection fatality rate among children and teens under 17 years old is 0.00002 of a percent. The 20 children in every million who will become infected with the coronavirus who die almost all have underlying life-threatening conditions. So what is the benefit of exposing 998,980 to the completely unknown mid- to long-term risks of COVID vaccines and the known death risks?

The standard public health – and frequently even Catholic as in the statement from the Pontifical Academy – ethic presented to parents is that children should be vaccinated to protect vulnerable people. 

Catholic parents have a moral duty to protect their children from harm. They do not have a duty to expose their children to known and unknown drug harms for the benefit of others. Ever. In fact, there is no other drug besides vaccines that is sold on that argument – because every other drug is given according to the basic time-honored Hippocratic imperative to “do no harm.” Each individual is given a drug that is assessed on an individual risk/benefit analysis for that individual. Since vaccination is for healthy individuals, that risk has to be exceedingly low and the benefit exceedingly high.

Even pro-lifers will acknowledge that pregnant women are not morally obliged to do anything that would cost their own life in order to save their unborn infants’ life, though many have heroically done so. But to call on people to be willing to sacrifice their own children’s health or lives for the sake of the “common good” or the “Greater Good” or the “herd” is not only utilitarian, it is anti-life.


  astrazeneca covid-19 vaccine, blood clots, centers for disease control, covid-19 vaccine, greater good, national catholic bioethics center, pontifical academy for life, utilitarianism, vaccine death, vaers

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