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Ethics in Public Health

The tools of law and regulations can provide public health professionals with far-reaching powers to improve the health of communities. Their use, however, also raises ethical dilemmas. This weekâ??s video program highlighted examples of social marketing campaigns that might be effective in combating smoking or obesity but bring up negative stereotypes to make their point.

Reflect again on some of the greatest public health achievements in the 20th century including mandatory seatbelt use, fluoridation of drinking water, and the ban on smoking indoors. In some situations or circumstances, the rights of the larger population have taken precedence over the rights of the individual. In what circumstances do you think it is ethical to revoke the rights of a single person to help protect the health of the larger population. What might be the unintended consequences of such an action

Can you think of any instances in which policies for protecting the â??common goodâ? might actually be unethical. Select one of the various tools of public health law that you have learned about in this course and reflect on how this tool might be used ethically or unethically for public health goals.

With these thoughts in mind, address the following questions:

QUESTIONS

1.Provide a scenario in which one of the tools of public health law might be used in an ethical way, and another scenario in which it might be considered unethical. For each, explain why this use is or isn't ethical.

2.Describe what you would do, as a public health official, if told you had to enforce a law that you believe is unethical.

Class Reading
Course Text: Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint Chapter 1, â??A Theory and Definition of Public Health Lawâ? (pp. 24â?"41)

Solution Preview

The fluoridation of drinking water is indeed one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, but even this can be used an unethical way by unscrupulous individuals. In this scenario, there is a water treatment plant located in an affluent socio economic area of a given city, and there is a second water treatment plant located on the southern edge of a given city that serves a less affluent area of the city. Due to ...

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