Res Publica 13 (4):339-359 (2007)

This paper gives a self-defence account of the scope and limits of the justified use of compulsion to control contagious disease. It applies an individualistic model of self-defence for state action and uses it to illuminate the constraints on public health compulsion of proportionality and using the least restrictive alternative. It next shows how a self-defence account should not be rejected on the basis of past abuses. The paper then considers two possible limits to a self-defence justification: compulsion of the non-culpable and over-inclusive compulsion. The paper claims that objections to compelling the non-culpable do not greatly restrict the scope of the self-defence justification. The over-included are, however, innocent bystanders, and methods such as compulsory quarantine, vaccination, and screening are not justified in self-defence.
Keywords compulsion  contagious disease  public health ethics  quarantine  self-defence
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-007-9024-0
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