Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


CNS COVID-19 Ethics Committee Statement

To Members of the Child Neurology Society

Dear Friends,

Lest the CNS bombard you with yet more news and announcements of this terrible tragedy in which we find ourselves, we want to send information that will be helpful with specific attention to the concerns and plight of pediatric neurologists and neurodevelopmental disability specialists. Suffice to say that none of us have confronted a medical catastrophe of this global magnitude in our lifetimes, one that has changed almost overnight the way in which we function, not only as physicians but within society. We are closely monitoring and allying with our related organizations, especially the AAN, to address areas ranging from neurological practice to conferences and graduate medical education. Last week the CNS distributed a joint statement with the CNF with targeted points for our patients, families, and practitioners, followed by an E-connections describing the wide range of online educational activities on our website that may be of use for residency training programs as well as practitioners.

At my request, Drs. William Graf, Chair of the CNS Ethics Committee, and Leon Epstein, member and past-Chair of the CNS Ethics Committee (also current Chair of the AAN Ethics, Law, and Humanities Committee and signatory to the Hastings Center CoVID-19 Petition sent to the President and Congress on March 21) have prepared a  CNS COVID19 Ethics Statement for you to read and reference in the coming days. Working at a lightning pace, they succinctly address five ethical points of extreme relevance to our role and responsibilities as child neurologists. These include our immediate approaches to achieving nonmaleficence; protecting health care personnel; remaining faithful to veracity, fidelity, and autonomy; allocating limited health care resources; and serving our duties to community and society. 

While child neurology per se may not appear to be at the cross hairs of this modern pandemic, we are all being called upon in various ways to make decisions in each of these ethical spheres, and more. Many of us have already been affected by this growing crisis. From a deeply personal perspective, my own older brother became ill with a sore throat and laryngitis over a three day period and was found deceased by his wife two Saturday mornings ago. While there has been no clear explanation beyond wondering whether he had a fatal MI in his sleep related to this systemic illness in an otherwise healthy 65 year old, I can assert that the sudden closure of funeral homes that weekend made the absence of a real service and week-long shiva house of mourning that much more insufferable, by orders of magnitude. The cataclysmic event that will be known in the history books as COVID19 is sure to change how we all interact for a very long time, down to our very personhood.

I invite you all to read the statement carefully, then freely share with CNS colleagues your personal experiences and evolving perspectives over the past few weeks as they relate to this statement. Please do so by going to the CNS Connect website and clicking “Open Forum” in the drop-down menu of “Communities/My Communities.” All CNS members have access to this site and are welcome to weigh in; Junior Members are encouraged to also access the “Junior Member” community workspace on CNS Connect to process more directly with fellow residents and junior faculty across North America the uniquely nuanced experiences you are currently negotiating as a generational cohort in this transformative historical moment. (NOTE: Like most online forums, the CNS Open Forum is lightly moderated to ensure an appropriately civil and respectful exchange of views).

The traditional sign-off has become ‘Stay Safe’.  Not being sure what this means, I’ll just leave it as, “Take Care of Yourself.”


Phillip L. Pearl MD
President, Child Neurology Society
Director of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology
William G. Lennox Chair, Department of Neurology
Boston Children’s Hospital
Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Music and Health Institute, Berklee College of Music
Boston, MA