Episode 10: The Ethical Dilemmas Presented by COVID-19 with Prof. Steve Gimbel

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1

President’s Office


In Episode 19 of Conversations Beneath the Cupola, podcast host, Gettysburg College President Robert W. Iuliano is joined by Philosophy Prof. Steve Gimbel. Iuliano and Gimbel discuss the many ethical dilemmas presented by COVID-19, particularly for physicians who are facing difficult decisions under conditions of great uncertainty.

The episode begins with Iuliano and Gimbel talking through the trolley car problem, which is a thought experiment in ethics modeling an ethical dilemma. This leads them to looking critically at the ethical dilemmas that have presented themselves during the current COVID-19 situation. One of these dilemmas is the scarcity of medical resources and determining who ought to receive them. Gimbel mentions that each hospital has ethicists on staff who analyze and clarify the possibilities and then present them to the larger community. It is not a philosopher’s job to answer the question.

The episode continues with discussion about the concept of individual versus collective rights in situations like the current stay at home order in Pennsylvania. Gimbel says in certain situations, individual liberties ought to be protected and protected vigorously, but there are other contexts in which the public good is so weighty that we need to give up certain individual rights for the overall good, which is the case for the current situation. Attempting to look beyond the pandemic, Gimbel later shares what society takes away from it: that we look at the world a little differently, reevaluate what is most important to us, and grow to understand our interconnectedness to others.

The episode concludes with an anecdotal “Slice of Life” told from the president’s perspective. Iuliano shines light on the College’s Get Acquainted Day (GAD), which took place virtually on April 18-19. Admissions used creative thinking to show off, through new means, the many opportunities to thrive at Gettysburg College that admitted students have. Alums and current students also rallied together across the College’s social media channels to share their GAD stories and welcome the Class of 2024.


A full transcript of the podcast is available on the podcast website.