Moral Permissibility and Responsibility for Infection

Public Health Ethics 5 (3):314-317 (2012)
Abstract
Attribution of responsibility to individuals for outbreaks of infectious disease is challenging even with the most sophisticated microbial typing techniques. Typing methods can help to elucidate potential transmission pathways but there are additional conditions required before responsibility for the spread of infection can be attributed to individuals. These conditions include the knowledge and opportunity to undertake alternative actions. Governmental and institutional obligations arise from the requirement for concerted collective action(s) which, by contrast with individuals, have the knowledge and resources to investigate outbreaks, and design and implement control measures. Individuals should not be the presumptive targets for the ascription of responsibility for outbreaks of infection. Indeed, our focus ought to be on the institutional obligations that fall upon public health providers as the primary agents with responsibility for assuring the concerted actions required to protect the public’s health
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