Lecture: Public health ethics, disability and the highest attainable standard of physical, mental, and social well-being

Wednesday 6th May, 13:00-14:30, K.6.63, King’s Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London.

Professor John Coggon (Professor of Law and the Philosophy of Public Health at the University of Southampton). John will present his latest work on “Public Health Ethics, Disability, and the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical, Mental, and Social Well-being” focusing on the recent convergence of literatures concerning disability, reproduction, and public health ethics. He will critically explore some of the ethical tensions raised by screening programmes, particular when these are considered as part of a public health policy agenda.

Abstract: The field of public health ethics is a now a well-established area of bioethical inquiry. It addresses important questions regarding population health and social policy, and has been welcomed by many for its emphasis on distinctive approaches and concerns, as contrasted with mainstream bioethics. However, it is would be wrong to suggest that public health ethics does not bring its own controversies. Of particular concern in this paper is the tension between ethical frameworks that allow pluralist accounts of the human good and those that suppose, and would aim to impose, a more singular idea of the good; a tension that is heightened in the context of law and public policy. There has been a growth in recent scholarship addressing these concerns with reference to policies regarding prenatal testing for disability. Using that as a case study, this paper draws out and analyses the limits of sound public health ethics. Against concerns familiar to scholars in the field of reproduction ethics, it examines the validity of policy aims, and the effect of different policy approaches. It argues that the potential force of public health ethics justifications must be carefully circumscribed if they are to have sustainable authoritative force.

For more information about the SSHM Seminar Series, please go here.

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