Public Health Ethics 9 (1):46-54 (2016)

Tom Walker
Queen's University, Belfast
It is relatively uncontroversial that some public health policies are paternalistic. Furthermore, that they are paternalistic is often taken to show that they are morally wrong. In this article I challenge this position. The article starts by arguing that given standard definitions of paternalism it is unclear why such policies count as paternalistic. Whilst it might appear that they impose restrictions on what individuals can, or cannot, do for their own good, this is not the case. The reason for this is that whilst public health policies focus on achieving benefits at a population or group level, the imposition is made at the level of the individual. If we are to retain the idea that such policies are paternalistic we must characterize them in such a way that both the benefit and imposition are at the same level: either that of the individual or that of the group. I argue that in many cases moving to the group level is the only plausible option. However, if we move to the group level, the features that make a policy paternalistic will not, unlike in those cases where paternalism is targeted at an individual, make the policy morally wrong
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DOI 10.1093/phe/phv019
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References found in this work BETA

Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.
Justice for Hedgehogs.Ronald Dworkin - 2011 - Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
The Theory and Practice of Autonomy.Gerald Dworkin - 1988 - Cambridge University Press.
Shaping the Normative Landscape.David Owens - 2012 - Oxford University Press.

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