Ethics of Public Health

David Ross Buchanan

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Ethics of Public Health

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Discussion of the ethics of public health today emerges from the confluence of two streams of writings. A small number of influential scholars in public health have written articles to characterize the general ethical orientation of public health and have produced analyses of particular issues as they have arisen. A second stream has emerged more recently in the work of established bioethicists, who have examined the differences between medical ethics and public health ethics. In these newer works, a key point is that, whereas medicine focuses on the health of the individual, public health is concerned with the health of the entire population. Thus, in contrast to a principal fiduciary duty to the individual patient, public health ethics is founded on the societal responsibility to protect and promote the health of the population as a whole. In the United States, the beginnings of the field of bioethics are commonly traced to the late 1960s and 1970s, when the issues of defining brain death, especially as it pertained to the emerging capacity to perform organ transplants, and the notorious Tuskegee syphilis trial gained prominent public attention. It was not until the early 21st century, however, that these ethicists turned their attention to the distinct issues that arise when the level of analysis shifts from moral considerations of individual well-being to that of the population as a whole.

Article.  14470 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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