On the Analogy Between Infectious Diseases and War: How to Use it and not to Use it

Public Health Ethics 4 (1):70-83 (2011)
In spite of extensive criticisms, war metaphors are still widespread in medical discourse. In the domain of public health analogies between war and infectious diseases are rooted in the similar impacts they can have on political institutions and communities. This similarity has been emphasized by the recent trend of addressing infectious disease from the point of view of national security. Nevertheless, it is here argued that the analogy cannot be used to model normative principles for treating carriers of contagious diseases after the principles of ius in bello . Yet, the analogy may provide some useful practical and theoretical insights in tackling the growing problem of limiting the spread of drug-resistant pathogens: an issue that generates increasing worries and raises difficult ethical and political questions of rights, responsibilities and obligations. It is suggested that if anti-microbials and antibiotics are seen as strategic information, their misuse can be usefully compared to careless talk in times of war
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