Populations, Public Health, and the Law

By Wendy E. Parmet | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
The Future of Population-Based
Legal Analysis

Often a new paradigm emerges, at least in embryo, before a
crisis has developed far or been explicitly recognized.

—Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

THIS BOOK BEGAN with the common law maxim, salus populi suprema lex. Its meaning is simple: the well-being of the community is the highest law. The maxim helps remind us of why we have law. Law exists not only to vindicate the interests and rights of individuals, nor simply to empower officials, but also to promote and ensure the well-being of populations. Central to that objective is promoting and enhancing population health. Only when that is secured can the well-being and interests of both individuals and the populations they form be realized.

Population-based legal analysis is an approach to legal reasoning, analysis, and decision making that is inspired by the vision of salus populi. It seeks to enable law to fulfill its mission of promoting the health of all populations, thereby providing communities and individuals with the chance to pursue their own vision of the good life. As the preceding chapters have explained, population-based legal analysis assists law in this mission by applying public health's population perspective to legal analysis. In so doing, it recognizes the promotion of population health as a legal norm and helps law appreciate the role that populations play as both objects and subjects of the law. In addition, it adopts the epistemology and

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