Can I Refuse to Wear a Mask?

No, you can’t.

I usually write about complex ethical problems for which there is no clear answer, with the aim of promoting thought and discussion to help you make a decision you feel comfortable with.

But when it comes to wearing a face mask in public to fight the pandemic, there is no gray area. Just wear the damn mask!

The author shows his colors.

Opponents, including a few who have reacted with violence when told to put on a mask, often question the legal authority behind mask rules or cite the First Amendment or some other patriotic sounding tripe about the supposed “right” to do what you want. I’m not going to bother with the legalities here because ethics is about doing the right thing, not the legally required minimum, and there is no doubt that you are ethically required to do what you easily can do to keep the rest of us safe. How this ever became a political issue is beyond my comprehension.

Let’s be clear. You wear a mask not to protect yourself, which is arguably our choice, but to protect others, which shouldn’t be your choice. The problem is you can have the virus and spread it without knowing it, so it’s not about your own safety, it’s about everyone else’s, and it is ethically wrong to endanger others unnecessarily. Period. End stop.