Don’t let the bedbugs bite: the Cimicidae debacle and the denial of healthcare and social justice
Although bedbug infestation is not a new public health problem, it is one that is becoming more alarming among healthcare professionals, public health officials, and ethicists given the magnitude of patients who may be denied treatment, or who are unable to access treatment, especially those underserved populations living in low income housing. Efforts to quarantine and eradicate Cimicidae have been and should be made, but such efforts require costly interventions. The alternative, however, can further exacerbate the already growing problems of injustice, i.e., unfair treatment of patients, inaccessibility of needed resources. In the following paper, I examine the ramifications of denying access to medical care, among other healthcare justice dilemmas surrounding bedbug infestations. I also explore the value of health, and how healthcare professionals and public officials often feel as though bedbugs are not a priority because they, themselves, are not diseases, regardless of the fact they cause physical and mental problems that affect a person’s health. I propose recommendations for improving the health and well-being of those vulnerable populations who are facing a difficult and growing public health problem that is currently being ignored in medical and public health ethics literature, regardless of increased media attention and unusual habitats of localized infestations, e.g., Statue of Liberty, New York City.
KeywordsPublic health ethics Social justice Bedbugs Healthcare delivery Community
I would like to thank members and attendees of the European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Healthcare (ESPMH) for providing support and excellent commentary on this paper. A portion of this paper was presented in Zurich, Switzerland, August 2011 at the ESPMH conference.
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