Capital City Complex Systems Symposium

Understanding ethical dilemmas in infectious disease interventions through modelling

Keynote presentation by Joel Miller, La Trobe University

From 2020 onwards, it has been clear to almost everyone that infectious disease interventions can impose large burdens. However, their benefits (particularly for COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia) have been significant. Although we saw this widely in the control of COVID-19, it also occurs in interventions against other diseases, such as HIV, influenza, measles and hepatitis C.
Unfortunately, the benefits and costs of interventions are not uniformly distributed through the population, and in many cases the individuals who benefit the most may not be the ones who suffer the greatest cost from the interventions. This gives rise to an ethical dilemma – is it appropriate to impose restrictions on one group to provide benefit to another? The answer to this depends in part on the magnitude of the benefits and the costs. I will use mathematical modelling to explore some ethical dilemmas that arise in disease interventions.