Introduction: International Public Health: Morality, Politics, Poverty, War, Disease

  • Michael Boylan
Part of the International Library of Ethics, Law, and the New Medicine book series (LIME, volume 42)

This volume of original chapters follows on the well-regarded Public Health Policy and Ethics (Dordrecht: Kluwer/Springer 2004). What is similar about this volume to its predecessor is the general position that public health is more inclusive than just epidemiology concerning various vicious microbes and sanitation. There are many threats to public health and these include all the usual suspects: clean water, sanitation, and disease control (all included here). But this volume also includes other sorts of threats. These include human rights violations and unfairness in the allocation of the basic goods of human agency such as health care and the opportunity to protect one’s self against threats against the same. The time is the present. The place is the whole world. There is a conscious crafting of chapters and argumentation to the global stage. However, that said, each issue must be repeated within the context of individual countries. For purposes of clarity, I would suggest that readers think about two sorts of countries in the world: wealthy countries (those able to provide the basic goods necessary for action, including health care) and subsistent societies (those in which there are substantial portions of the population at risk for disease and starvation because the country simply does not have the resources to begin to help all its citizens). I have argued elsewhere that these two sorts of countries should be measured on a different scale of moral “ought”—because of the issue of “can.” And that the wealthier countries should assist their more indigent neighbors in their quest for fair economic development. The various chapters in this volume address financial feasibility along with the strength of human rights claims. But let us be clear about this: the claim is not simply that public health is wider than infectious disease and sanitation—but that in any issue that affects the general community, a plurality of considerations should be brought forth under the guiding principle of ethics. Pure science/medicine needs a supporting principle and that is the inclusive ethical/social/political considerations brought forth in this volume.


Distributive Justice Public Health Policy Geneva Convention Wealthy Country Global Public Good 
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  1. 1.
    For a theoretical defense of this position see my book, A Just Society (Lanham, MD and Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), chapter 3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The Table of Embeddedness.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boylan 2004, chapter 7.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For a possible compromise position between these two see: Boylan 2004, chapter 3.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    I use the term “kraterism” to refer to a principle of distributive justice—to each according to his ability to snatch it for himself, cf. Boylan 2004, chapter 7. The “might makes right” mentality is behind this standpoint.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The first element of this author’s Personal Worldview Imperative is that one must act consistently. This is necessary but not sufficient (the other points being: completeness, connection to a recognized theory of the good, and commitment to live out the principles that one believes in).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Boylan 2004, 10–14.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For an extended discussion of this argument see the introduction to the predecessor volume to this volume: Public Health Policy and Ethics, edited by Michael Boylan (Dordrecht: Kluwer/ Springer, 2004).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Boylan
    • 1
  1. 1.Marymount University in Arlington

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