Module 1: Distinguishing Public Health Ethics from Medical Ethics
- Medical ethics emanate from interactions between a patient
and a physician while public health ethics emanate from interactions
between an agency, such as the state health department, and
the population it serves. In the case of vaccination for an
infectious disease such as measles, a physician will consider
the autonomy of her patient (people can refuse "required"
vaccinations on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions).
While the director of a public health department will not want
to violate an individual's rights, his perspective will extend
to a whole population. What concerns beyond the rights of individuals
to refuse vaccination might he have when implementing a vaccination
program for the population?
- An ethic of human rights is popular among many in public
health. On the surface it seems to be one of the more intuitive
ethics. The presentation points out that rights don't carry
much force unless people agree on them. Can you identify some
human rights related to the health of the public that people
agree on? Can you identify others that people do not agree on?