Public Health Ethics: Global Cases, Practice, and Context
Introducing public health ethics poses two special challenges. First, it is a relatively new field that combines public health and practical ethics. Its unfamiliarity requires considerable explanation, yet its scope and emergent qualities make delineation difficult. Moreover, while the early development of public health ethics occurred in a western context, its reach, like public health itself, has become global. A second challenge, then, is to articulate an approach specific enough to provide clear guidance yet sufficiently flexible and encompassing to adapt to global contexts. Broadly speaking, public health ethics helps guide practical decisions affecting population or community health based on scientific evidence and in accordance with accepted values and standards of right and wrong. In these ways, public health ethics builds on its parent disciplines of public health and ethics. This dual inheritance plays out in the definition the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers of public health ethics: “A systematic process to clarify, prioritize, and justify possible courses of public health action based on ethical principles, values and beliefs of stakeholders, and scientific and other information” (CDC 2011).