Bioethics Guidelines in Case of Zombie Apocalypse

(Originally posted May 20, 2011)

Wise beyond its years, the CDC has released an in-depth preparedness guide for what to do in the (frankly inevitable) event of a zombie apocalypse. Of course, it’s a clever bit of social media promotion to get people to think about how to plan for a major disaster. It’s a great idea, as Bryan Vartabedian notes over at his blog, “You come thinking zombies but take away principles for emergency preparedness.  Well done, CDC.”


At the end of the guide, the CDC assure us that, if there really were a zombie apocalypse (possibly the 21st of this month), “CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak. CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states, or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation.”


Here at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, we’d like to assure you that we too are ready to help out in the event of a zombie uprising. To that end, we present here a handy set of 10 bioethics guidelines to follow when making preparations for when the Night of the Living Dead comes to town. We hope they will make planning for a zombie invasion not just easier, but more ethical, also.


1) When making your zombie invasion plan, ensure to solicit input from all major stakeholders within the impacted community. This is especially important in an invasion of vampire zombies, as stakeholders will finally be able to put those stakes to some use.


2) Although community engagement is an essential part of all disaster planning, it should be noted that in the case of a zombie attack, anyone who becomes a zombie automatically loses their right to contribute to any town hall meetings.


3) When forming your disaster planning committee, it is important that it represents diverse voices within the community, not just the military and medical experts. Ideally, your committee will also include a tough cop with a heart of a gold, a disheveled scientist whose crazy idea might just work, a wise-cracking black guy, an unfeasibly attractive female FBI agent who is just getting over the death of her fiance, and an adorably cute kid.


4) Ethically sound disaster preparedness plans are grounded in the democratic process of consultation and review. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, it is acceptable for this process to happen ad hoc in the back of an armored van whilst fleeing the marauding hordes of undead.


5) Disaster plans should take into account the innate and inalienable right of all citizens to adequate healthcare. Until they get bitten by a zombie, in which case you can totally death panel them.


6) In most disaster preparedness plans, it is essential to think about how hospitals will deal with the inevitable surge in intake: Who will get ventilators, how to triage, how to cope with the loss of staff, etc. etc. However, when it comes to a zombie apocalypse, hospitals are a dead loss, so you can skip this bit.


7) Disaster preparedness plans should try to maximize the benefits for as many people as possible. (Note: people, not zombies. It is OK to shoot and/or behead zombies.) Plans which maximize benefit for just a few, or even one individual, will inevitably fail, which is why you should never “go it alone” in a zombie apocalypse.


8.) Ethically sound preparedness plans will understand that disasters such as a zombie invasion are likely to exacerbate existing health disparities. Which is why it is so morally uplifting when the snooty residents of the gated community get eaten by zombies in Land of the Dead.

9) Preparedness plans must seek to fairly redistribute the resources of the community to ensure a just and equitable response to the disaster. In the case of a zombie invasion, this may just mean deciding who gets to use which of the guns you looted from Bass Pro whilst fighting your way out of a zombie-ridden strip mall.


10) Finally, when constructing your disaster preparedness plan, remember: You do not have get informed consent from a zombie if you want to cut its undead head off.


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Daniel O'Connor

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One Response to “Op-Ed: Bioethically Bracing for Zombies”

  1. […] Works Cited O’Conner D. Bioethically bracing for zombies. John Hopkins Berman Institute for     Bioethics Bulletin. 10 June 2012 […]

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