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Government Issues Relating to Public Health Ethics

1. Explain the concept of ethical relativism. What are the inherent dangers in ethical relativism?
2. How does elitism impact our perceptions and our actions as professionals in public health? How can we mitigate against elitism?
3. When making involuntary quarantine decisions, determine what ethical theories support our decision and which refute the decision. How does a public health officer decide which ethical theory to adopt when faced with a pandemic disease attack?
4. Compare and contrast the theories of justice presented in Morrison's text.
5. In the case of reproductive technology, what is the basis for developing an ethical position? How would you reconcile that position as a public health officer if it violates your personal worldview despite its evidence based efficacy?
6. Define the nature of social injustice and its impact on public health.
7. Balance social injustice in broad frameworks of government (public policy), institutional, and personal/family accountability toward sustaining a healthy lifestyle leading to a healthier society in general.
8. Explain the concept of "Wicked Problems" and their applications to intractable social problems in society.
9. Define the limited role of government in correcting perceived social injustices. Are their limits to what any nation-state can do in regard to many social problems?
10. Demonstrate how rule consequentialism is often used in public health agency interventions in social problems.

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Public Health Ethical Discussion Questions

1. Explain the concept of ethical relativism. What are the inherent dangers in ethical relativism?

According to Simon Blackburn, author of The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, ethics and morals ebb and flow and the environment dictates right and wrong. Morals evolve and change from year to year or erode over the centuries.

Hair, skin color, and culture are good examples. At the time the US Constitution was created, long hair was fashionable, where students now can get in trouble over their hair.
See: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2010/11/03/Pre-K-boy-expelled-after-growing-out-hair/UPI-32471288815015/ and
www.escapistmagazine.com

Before the turn of the 20th century, those having skin other than that of the European founders were treated differently and it was acceptable by law.

2. How does elitism impact our perceptions and our actions as professionals in public health? How can we mitigate against elitism?

According to Edward Richards, Law, Science & Public Health Program at Louisiana State University, privacy and autonomy is more important than disease control. Additionally, political power, drugs, poverty, gender and those omitted from clinical studies are just a few examples of how elitism manifests in the modern western culture.

3. When making involuntary quarantine decisions, determine what ethical theories support our decision and which refute the decision.

Involuntary quarantine is best applied to those who may be mentally ill or imminently violent (School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, J Health Soc Behav. 1996 Dec;37(4):381-7.). Catalano RA, McConnell notes that a justification for removing these people from the community is similar to quarantine.

As in the 1905 Supreme Court decision, Jacobson v Massachusetts, public health and constitutional law better protect public health and human rights.

How does a public health officer decide which ethical theory to adopt when faced with a pandemic disease attack? According to the World Health Organization, the first general principal is to save the greatest number of lives in an efficient manner and to maximize the benefits of public health interventions. An alternative strategy is to aim toward life years or quality adjusted life years. The issue of fairness can be challenging because it is relative. Giving vaccines to those in an urban area, because the vaccine is more prevalent there discriminates against those in rural areas and the same mindset applies to who will get the limited supply, elderly or young persons? WHO goes on to say that taking a direction of limiting the spread of a virus as quickly as possible is critical, ...

Solution Summary

Vaccinations, reproduction, accountability, some of the national and state issues that a health officer deals are some of the issues discussed.

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