Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader

Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader

Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader

Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader

Synopsis

Now revised and expanded to cover today's most pressing health threats, Public Health Law and Ethics probes the legal and ethical issues at the heart of public health through an incisive selection of government reports, scholarly articles, and relevant court cases. Companion to the internationally acclaimed text Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint, this reader can also be used as a stand-alone resource for students, practitioners, scholars,and teachers. It encompasses global issues that have changed the shape of public health in recent years including anthrax, SARS, pandemic flu, biosecurity, emergency preparedness, and the transition from infectious to chronic diseases caused by lifestyle changes in eating and physical activity. In addition to covering these new arenas, it includes discussion of classic legal and ethical tensions inherent to public health practice, such as how best to balance the police power of the state with individual autonomy.

Excerpt

The issues and questions presented in the theory and practice of public health are not resolved solely through scientific inquiry; rather, law and ethics also guide our efforts. Yet despite the closeness of the interplay between public health, law, and ethics, each of these three fields has its separate identity, and cross-fertilization is rare. For the most part, each field has adopted distinct terminologies and forms of reasoning. To the extent that scholars and practitioners in the fields of law and ethics have engaged in sustained examinations of issues in health, they have focused principally on medical care. This introductory chapter maps the important features of, and issues in, law and ethics as they pertain to the theory and practice of public health.

I. PUBLIC HEALTH

In thinking about the application of ethics or law to problems in public health, it is important first to understand what we mean by public health. How is the field defined and what is its content—its mission, functions, and services? Who engages in the practice of public health— government, the private sector, charities, or community-based organizations? What are the principal methods or techniques of public health practitioners (Novak 1996; Turnock 2001)? In truth, finding answers to these fundamental questions is not easy, because the field of public health is highly eclectic and conflicted (Beaglehole and Bonita 1997).

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