The pandemic forced societies to make difficult decisions and choices. Many countries shut down large parts of society and restricted the movement of their citizens. Sweden, on the other hand, took a softer approach based on voluntary measures and individual responsibility, and recommendations rather than far-reaching mandates. The Swedish strategy also stood out in other respects; for example, unlike many other countries, we kept our compulsory schools open.

The Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics has invited experts from a number of countries to take part in this year’s Ethics Day and discuss lessons learned from the pandemic to prepare us for future crises. 

The seminar will focus on issues concerning ethics, knowledge and decision-making during the pandemic, and discuss questions such as:

  • What do we do when we lack the science and best practices?
  • How do knowledge gaps affect our decision-making?
  • What role can ethical frameworks and ethical analysis play in decision-making during a pandemic? What can we learn from the pandemic to ensure that, next time round, we use the responses that were effective this time and avoid those that weren’t? 
  • How did Sweden and other countries deal with the many difficult ethical choices that we faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How were the ethical dilemmas that were highlighted by different decision-makers dealt with? Was ethical expertise included in the decision-making process?

See video from the seminar.


9.30 Welcome and introduction

Sven-Eric Söder, Chair, the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics (Smer)
Lotta Eriksson, Secretary General, Smer


9.45-11.40 Ethical Frameworks for Decision Making in Pandemics and Other Crises

Chair: Sven-Eric Söder  

09.45 Can we avoid mistakes from the past in responding to future epidemics?

Ross Upshur, Professor in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM), University of Toronto


10.05   How can we involve ethics in the management of a pandemic?

Anders Tegnell, MD, Senior Advisor, former state epidemiologist at The Public Health Agency of Sweden


10.25 Council of Europe experience from the pandemic. Human Rights at stake – Human Rights as a resource

Laurence Lwoff, Head of the Human rights and Biomedicine Division and Secretary of the Steering committee for Human rights in the fields of biomedicine and health (CDBIO)


10.45 Values in times of crisis: Strategic crisis management in the EU. EGE statement 2022 

Nils-Eric Sahlin, Senior Professor of Medical Ethics, Vice Chair the European Group of Ethics


11.05-11.40 Discussion

11.40 Ethics Prize 2022
11.50-12.30 Lunch
12.30-14.15 Experiences and lessons learned

Chair: Nils-Eric Sahlin, member Smer

12.30 The pandemic – a private matter? Ethics committees and the Covid-19 vaccine mandate in Austria

Christiane Druml, Chair of the Austrian Bioethics Commission, UNESCO Chair on Bioethics at the Medical University of Vienna and Director of the Josephinum – Medical Collections


12.45 The shadow of J Bentham is long in times of health crisis: A Spanish story of success in prioritization of vaccines against Covid-19

Federico de Montalvo Jääskeläinen, Professor of Law, ICADE-Comillas, former Chair The National Bioethics Council Spain, member UNESCO International Bioethics Committee


13.00 From ethics guidelines to implementation: lessons from the Norwegian covid-19 response

Jasper Littmann, PhD MPH, deputy director for the Norwegian covid-10 immunisation programme at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and assistant professor for ethics, University of Bergen


13.15-13.30 Between official directives and practical circumstances – ethical reflexions from a professional clinical perspective

Mikael Sandlund, Senior Professor MD, member of Smer


13.30-14.15 Discussion

14.15-14.45 Coffee
14.45-15.40 Global perspectives  

Chair: Sofia Nilsson, member Smer

14.45-15.00 MSF and Medical Ethics on a global scope during the Covid-19 pandemic

Mia Hejdenberg, Medical Humanitarian Advisor, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) 


15.00-15.15 “Where you live should not determine whether you live” – Global justice and the distribution of vaccines

Göran Collste, Senior Professor, Applied Ethics, Linköping University, member of Smer


15.20-15.40 Discussion

15.40-16.20 The way forward: Ethics, regulation and policy making in Sweden. (in Swedish)

Chair: Sven-Eric Söder, chair Smer

Lars Hedengran, Director general for Legal Affairs, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs and Special investigator, The governmental inquiry of constitutional preparedness for future pandemics (S 2021:04)
Sofia Nilsson, member of Smer
Åsa Gyberg Karlsson, member of Smer
Michael Anefur, member of Smer

16.20-16.30 Summary and concluding remarks