Is the Cure Worse than the Disease? The Ethics of Imposing Risk in Public Health

Asian Bioethics Review 15 (1):19-35 (2023)
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Efforts to improve public health, both in the context of infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases, will often consist of measures that confer risk on some persons to bring about benefits to those same people or others. Still, it is unclear what exactly justifies implementing such measures that impose risk on some people and not others in the context of public health. Herein, we build on existing autonomy-based accounts of ethical risk imposition by arguing that considerations of imposing risk in public health should be centered on a relational autonomy and relational justice approach. Doing so better captures what makes some risk permissible and others not by exploring the importance of power and context in such deliberations. We conclude the paper by applying a relational account of risk imposition in the cases of (a) COVID-19 measures and (b) the regulation of sugar-sweetened beverages to illustrate its explanatory power.



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Maxwell Smith
University of Western Ontario

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What is the point of equality.Elizabeth Anderson - 1999 - Ethics 109 (2):287-337.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Philosophy 63 (243):119-122.
Risking and Wronging.Rahul Kumar - 2015 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 43 (1):27-51.

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