The Implications of Public Health for Bioethics

Jeffrey Kahn and Anna Mastroianni

in The Oxford Handbook of Bioethics

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199562411
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Implications of Public Health for Bioethics

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At its core, public health introduces tensions between individuals' autonomy and the need to account for the perspectives and needs of communities and populations. It further raises social justice issues, including fair allocation of limited resources. This article examines and elaborates on these tensions and their resolutions using specific public health examples. Experiences in the 1980s and 1990s with HIV/AIDS provide a particularly rich collection of issues that brought ethical issues in public health to the public's attention, and in so doing challenged previously held assumptions about the appropriate consideration of individual rights in the context of population health objectives. Lastly, the article examines some of the ethical challenges arising in public health applications of recent science and technology advances, specifically the emerging area of public health genomics and the large scale collection and analysis of health information.

Keywords: public health; individuals' autonomy; social justice issues; population health objectives; individual rights; HIV/AIDS

Article.  11501 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Moral Philosophy

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