The role of public health is to assure the conditions needed to promote and protect people’s health.
Others argue that it would be unethical, in the face of preventable morbidity and mortality, to confine the focus of public health to narrowly-defined collective action problems and market failures.
Public health regulation often involves potential trade-offs between public goods and private interests.
More recently, restrictions on tobacco, fast food, and sugary drink manufacturers and retailers have riled critics who claim these actions invoke a public health “nanny state.” Opponents of paternalism value freedom of choice, arguing that individuals should be allowed to decide for themselves, even if they make what experts might deem the “unhealthy” or “unsafe” choice.
Supporters of paternalism point out that there are both internal and external constraints on people’s capacity to pursue their own interests.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) defines public health as “what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy.” With its use of the phrase “we, as a society,” the IOM emphasizes cooperative and mutually shared obligation.
Health Law And Ethics Essay
It also reinforces the notion that collective entities (e.g., governments and communities) are responsible for healthy populations.This idea is critical because the political community does not have a clear sense of the concept of public health apart from the discourse around health care reform.Efforts to assure access to high-quality health care are certainly an important part of improving the public’s health, but they play a relatively minor role compared to broader efforts to assure equitable access to healthy living conditions. Society faces threats from emerging and resurgent infectious diseases such as Zika virus, declining vaccination rates, antimicrobial resistance, and the threat of bioterrorism (for example, from anthrax and smallpox).The fields of bioethics and medical ethics have richly informed the development and use of biotechnologies, the practice of medicine, and the allocation of health care resources.If a single overarching principle could be extrapolated from these traditions, it is that individuals have a strong claim to make decisions for themselves, at least to the extent that those decisions are purely self-regarding without imposing consequences on others.Thus, if a person has the capacity to understand the nature and consequences of the decision at hand, she has an interest in making her own choice without outside interference.Autonomy is a guiding value that supports a constellation of individual rights to, for example, confidentiality, informed consent, and liberty.At the same time, public health powers may encroach on fundamental civil liberties such as privacy, bodily integrity, and freedom of movement, association, religion, or expression.Sanitary regulations may also intrude on basic economic liberties such as freedom of contract, pursuit of professional status, use of property, and competitive markets.Even those who advocate for the minimal use of state powers endorse infectious disease control measures that limit liberty (e.g., mandatory vaccination, physical examination, treatment, isolation of the infected and quarantine of the exposed), at least in high-risk circumstances such as an outbreak of Ebola virus.The “harm principle” in bioethics holds that competent adults should have freedom of action unless they pose a risk to others.