Public health paternalism: A response to Nys

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Evaluating public health measures is one of the central tasks in public health ethics. Some public health measures incur the charge that they are paternalistic in an objectionable way. In a recent intriguing contribution to this journal, Thomas Nys responds to this complaint by setting out three challenges to be met if the charge is to be made good. The first challenge is that putatively objectionable public health measures in fact preserve autonomy; the second is that autonomy is not undermined by measures that are the upshot of democratic processes; the third is that it is a mistake to charge measures intended to benefit others with being objectionably paternalistic. Nys’s explicit aim in presenting these challenges is not to show that the charge of paternalism in public health is never sound, but to stimulate further discussion. My paper takes up this invitation by responding to each of the challenges Nys presents, including discussing where they fail and identifying which succeed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-293
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009

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