Posts Tagged ‘Policy’

Public Health Ethics, Policy, and the Long Game

In 2014, Public Ethics on January 21, 2014 at 10:41 am

I’m writing this post in a rather sparse corner of Düsseldorf Airport, waiting to head homewards after a very stimulating two-day workshop on public health ethics. Organised by Professor Thomas Schramme and Professor Stefan Huster, at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research, the workshop had the theme “Individual Liberty and Problems of Justice in Public Health Ethics”. It formed part of a wider, on-going research agenda that is being pursued at ZiF.

Both A.M. Viens and I attended this workshop, which had paper presentations from me, Steve Edwards, Stephen Holland, Sridhar Venkatapuram, and Kalle Grill. Intellectually it was both invigorating and challenging, with about an hour’s in-depth discussion given to each paper. My own contribution, entitled “Public Health Ethics and some Problems of Incomplete Theorising,” was based on a project I’ve been developing for some time. Working from a very broad understanding of public health (and thus also of public health ethics, law, and regulation), I sought to explore two things.

First up, I explained some basic analytical matters that I see as necessarily entailed in public health ethics. These are all built around the (widely accepted) idea that it requires us to examine freedoms and obligations concerning social, political, and commercial institutions as well as persons and populations, so should be framed in terms of political philosophy. Given that situation, and a heavy focus that inevitably falls on concerns for liberty (is this a hangover from bioethics, a ‘liberal thing’, or something else…?), I propose that a good way to enter analysis is by starting with a situation where we (purport to) give absolute respect to autonomy; philosophical anarchism. By considering the reasons why we would want to live in a political system rather than a state of nature (assuming that we would!), we present our reasons for accepting government, assessing how and why interferences with liberty are legitimate or desirable, and what values other than liberty can form the basis of political obligation. These sorts of considerations, I argued, are fundamental to, and must come prior to, any claims about specific public health imperatives.

Second, and at greater length, I explored an issue that I related to debates on theory and application of libertarian paternalism, or ‘nudges’. I began this by noting how nudges are advocated for by parties who are themselves not committed in any sense to libertarianism. Against a background of scepticism about the trust this might allow libertarians (and others concerned with liberty) to place in champions of nudge, I went on to explore an issue that (in this context) I think has received insufficient attention: the ‘long game’ in health law and policy. Here we might consider policy agendas that can only be implemented through progressive strategies, such as we see in the ‘denormalisation’ strategies concerning smoking. The questions I presented for discussion mixed normative and methodological inquiry: in essence, I asked whether it is soundly possible in evaluating laws, regulations, and measures to abstract individual policies (say a ban on smoking within five metres of the entrance to a public building) from the wider policy agenda of which they logically form a part (eradication of smoking through incremental policy-developments). This matter raises interesting philosophical issues concerning (amongst other things) the place of temporality in political philosophy and the role of individual preference in conceptions of coercive regulation.

John Coggon

John Coggon on Elective Ventilation for Organ Donation: Law, Policy, and Public Ethics

In 2012, Human tissue on December 5, 2012 at 7:59 am

Our most recent HEAL event was a fascinating seminar with John Coggon speaking on Elective Ventilation for Organ Donation: Law, Policy, and Public Ethics. His paper drew on an article accepted by the Journal of Medical Ethics (forthcoming); abstract kindly provided below.


Abstract This paper examines questions concerning elective ventilation, contextualised within English law and policy. It presents the general debate with reference both to the Exeter Protocol on elective ventilation, and the considerable developments in legal principle since the time that that protocol was declared to be unlawful. I distinguish different aspects of what might be labelled elective ventilation policies under the following four headings: ‘basic elective ventilation’; ‘epistemically complex elective ventilation’; ‘practically complex elective ventilation’; and ‘epistemically and practically complex elective ventilation’. I give a legal analysis of each. In concluding remarks on their potential practical viability, I emphasise the importance not just of ascertaining the legal and ethical acceptability of these and other forms of elective ventilation, but also of assessing their professional and political acceptability. This importance relates both to the successful implementation of the individual practices, and to guarding against possible harmful effects in the wider efforts to increase the rates of posthumous organ donation.

To Think, To Write, To Publish: Workshop

In 2012 on May 28, 2012 at 8:09 am

The Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona
State University was recently awarded a generous grant from the
National Science Foundation (NSF) in order to conduct the second
iteration of a first of its kind workshop, “To Think, To Write, To
Publish,” founded on these very ideas.

Writers of all kinds as well as science, innovation and policy
scholars are invited to apply to this competitive program where they
will learn sought after literary techniques and publish their work in
a collection of creative nonfiction essays that makes science,
innovation and policy scholarship accessible to a larger audience
using creative nonfiction techniques.  Completed essays will be
published in various venues including a special book published by an
imprint of the Creative Nonfiction Foundation.

The Workshop is an all expenses paid, two-part event, offering
participants an honorarium upon completion of the program. The first
part of the workshop will take place in Washington, DC in early
October 2012 and the second in Tempe, Arizona, mid-May 2013 (nice
weather is expected!).

The application deadline is June 15, 2012.  More information is
available at:  www.thinkwritepublish.org or http://cspo.org/projects/think-write-publish/.