Prof. dr. Marcel Verweij

Ethiek Instituut

Since April 1st, 2023 I am professor of philosophical ethics at the Ethics Institute / Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University. My main interest is in practical ethics, notably public health ethics, and in the relationships between moral philosophy and normative theory and practical ethical decision making. In the past years I have been working - obviously given my focus on public health - on ethical issues in relation to the Covid19 pandemic. My major research theme however was vaccination ethics more in general. In 2024 I published a monograph Inducing Immunity? Justifying Immunization Policies in Times of Vaccine Hesitancy together with Roland Pierik of Maastricht University (open access!). Apart from vaccination policies I'm currently involved as advisor at Zorginstituut Nederland, as member of the committee that advises on contents of the (mandatory) basic health insurance package.

A general theme in the last years and presumably upcoming years is to gain a better understanding of the normative character of the value of (health) solidarity, and its links with sustainability. This theoretical issue is relevant to policy questions in relation to vaccination, infectious disease control, local and global health inequalities, and access to health care.

My view on practical philosophy is to build bridges between theoretical analysis and practical moral problems in professional areas or public policy. This has resulted in in-depth analyses of problems in public health, such as: how far should professionals go in promoting health of citizens; what responsibilities do citizens have to take precautions against infection; and how should governments allocate scarce medical resources during an influenza pandemic. These are questions about health that go far beyond a medical-professional perspective; they concern responsibilities of all societal actors to contribute to health and quality of life.

My philosophical approach to practical societal issues is also the key in various reflection/consultative roles, for example for the World Health Organization. Since 2005, I have been member of the Health Council of the Netherlands and contributed to more than 25 advisory reports for the Minister of Health, including reports on collective vaccination, screening, preconception counseling, special policies for high-risk groups, and expert reports on Q-Fever and Mexican Flu. Since 2016 I am member of the Adviescommissie Pakket of Zorginstituut Nederland, a committee that advises on the content of the basic health insurance package.

For practical ethics, contributing to reflection on ethical issues in professions, policy-making and in public debate more general is, in my view, essential. For more information about such contributions, see the public debate section on my personal website.


Key papers and books:

Inducing Immunity? Justifying Immunization Policies in Times of Vaccine Hesitancy, MITpress, 2024. Co-authored with Roland Pierik)

The (un)fairness of vaccination free riding. Public Health Ethics 2022;15(3): 233–239.

Facing difficult but unavoidable choices: Donor blood safety and the deferral of men who have sex with men. Bioethics 2022;36(8): 840-848 (co-authored with Roland Pierik; Thijs van de Laar and Hans Zaaijer of Sanquin Bood Services).

Sharing Responsibility: Responsibility for Health Is Not a Zero-Sum Game. Public Health Ethics 2019;12(2): 99–102. (co-authored with Angus Dawson)

Maternal Immunization: Ethical Issues. The Lancet Infectious Diseases  2016;16 (12): e310–e314. (co-authored with Philipp Lambach, Justin R Ortiz, and Andreas Reis, World Health Organization)

How (not) to argue for the rule of rescue. Claims of Individuals vs Group Solidarity. In: I. Glenn Cohen, Norman Daniels, and Nir Eyal (eds.) Identified versus Statistical Victims. An Interdisciplinary Perspective. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015: pp. 137-149.

Moral Principles for Allocating Scarce Medical Resources in an Influenza Pandemic. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 2009;6(2):159-169

Ethics, prevention, and public health, edited AJ Dawson and MF Verweij. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Preventive Medicine Between Obligation and Aspiration (monograph) Kluwer/Springer, 2001.  

Medicalization as a moral problem for preventive medicine. Bioethics, 1999; 13:89-113.

philosophical ethics