Minimizing the Moral Remainder

Ariel Arguelles, John McCaskill


Public health issues can have devastating consequences on sub-groups of societies. But larger moral issues that face the entire society frequently frame these issues. Our deepest held moral values are frequently in conflict, and cannot withstand careful scrutiny, so we shield them by making them moral imperatives. This is how humans find themselves in moral dilemmas; torn regarding the right thing to do because we are unable to sacrifice sacred values that are in conflict (Tessman 2017).

In this paper, we examine the ethical issues that have been inserted into the funding efforts taken to combat Zika in 2016, with some of the ethical dilemmas scientists and physicians have found themselves in through recent history serving as a comparison. We then examine the parallels (and inconsistencies) of public judgment passed on the choices made by these individuals and how these same stark judgments may be influencing public health outcomes today. The primary tool we use throughout this analysis is the “Ethics Triangle” as described by James Svara (2015). The goal of the paper is to examine how our sacred values can become ethical traps (or dilemmas) in moral decision-making. Basically, how do we minimize the moral remainder?

Full Text:



Zika Bill is Blocked by Senate Democrats Upset Over Provisions. The New York Times, June 28.

Adler, J. (2014). Ebola Panic 2014: The Fears and the Real Lesson Learned. International Business Times, December 25.

Ahmed, S. (2014). Ebola hysteria: An epic, epidemic overreaction. CNN, October 20.

CDC. (2014). Cases of Ebola Diagnosed in the United States. Last updated: December 16, 2014. Retrieved from:

Deckman, M. Can pro-choice and pro-life women find common ground? It’s complicated. The New York Times, January 20.

Drabold, W. (2016). Zika Funding Bill Fails as Congress is Unable to Reach Compromise. Time, July 14.

Enriquez, L. How the New Feminist Resistance Leaves Out American Women. The New York Times, February 27.

Ferris, S. (2016). Rubio: Drop Planned Parenthood Fight to Approve Zika Funding. The Hill, September 6.

Garver, R. (2014). Ted Cruz: Obama’s Public Health Experts Can’t Be Trusted. The Fiscal Times, October 19.

Groden, C. (2016). Former Assistant Secretary General Criticizes U.N. for ‘Colossal Mismanagement. Fortune, March 18.

Herzenshorn, D. M. (2016). Senate Votes to Advance Emergency Funding to Fight Zika Virus. The New York Times, May 17.

Marchione, M., & Mike, S. (2014). NY, NJ order Ebola quarantine for doctors, others. Yahoo News, October 25.

Mukherjee, S. (2017). Pregnant Women with Zika Virus Are 20 times More Likely to Have Children with Birth Defects. Fortune, March 3.

Pautz, M. (2016). Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Supreme Court, The Environmental Protection Agency, Madison’s ‘Auxiliary Precautions’, and Rohr’s ‘Balance Wheel. Public Integrity, 18, 149-166.

Reuters. (2016). TIMELINE-Zika’s origin and global spread. Reuters, December 20.

Rhodan, M. (2016). President Obama Blasts Congress Over Zika Funding. Time, May 20.

Snell, K., & Mike, D. (2016). Zika funding stalls in the Senate amid partisan rift. The Washington Post, June 28.

Svara, J. (2014). The Ethics Primer for Public Administrators in Government and Nonprofit Organizations: 2nd Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning: Burlington, MA.

Symptoms. Retrieved from:

Tessman, L. (2017). When Doing the Right Thing is Impossible. Oxford University Press: New York.

Wallace, W. B. (2014). Chris Christie is trying to fight an Ebola panic that doesn’t exist. New York Magazine, October 27.

Wenham, C. (2016). Zika isn’t a global health threat like Ebola. It needs a targeted response. The Guardian, January 27.

WHO. (2016). The history of the Zika virus. Retrieved from:


Copyright (c) 2018 Ariel Arguelles, John McCaskill

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Journal of Public Administration and Governance  ISSN 2161-7104


Copyright © Macrothink Institute

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.