The Cost of Coronavirus Obligations: Respecting the Letter and Spirit of Lockdown Regulations

David M. Shaw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We all now know that the novel coronavirus is anything but a common cold. The pandemic has created many new obligations for all of us, several of which come with serious costs to our quality of life. But in some cases, the guidance and the law are open to a degree of interpretation, leaving us to decide what is the ethical (or unethical but desired) course of action. Because of the high cost of some of the obligations, a conflict of interest can arise between what we want to do and what it is right to do. And so, some people choose to respect only the letter of the law, but not the spirit, or not to respect even the spirit of the guidelines. This paper identifies and describes the new obligations imposed on us all by the pandemic, considers their costs in terms of the good life, and provides an ethical analysis of two personal and two public cases in terms of the letter and spirit of the guidance and legislation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number096318012000081
Pages (from-to)255-261
Number of pages7
JournalCambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • coronavirus
  • pandemic
  • conflict of interest
  • ethical analysis

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