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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Postgraduate Course: Public Health Ethics (LAWS11477)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryPublic health ethics presents us with various kinds of ethical questions and tensions. What kind of good is public health? How do we address population-based health and social inequalities? What kind of measures can be ethically justified in the context of a public health emergency? Can individual liberty be curtailed for the sake of preventing harm, or for the sake of fairness?

Public health is committed to promoting and securing health at the population level, often in the context of limited resources. This entails establishing interventions and policies that require justification and therefore can be subject to ethical scrutiny. Public health measures endorse values and interests that can, at times be at odds with each other, or with other deeply held values in society. Advancing the health of a population also requires the intervention of state and institutional actors, just as it requires collective action. It is an endeavour which results in decision-making and action at various institutional levels and social spheres, giving rise to interesting and at times, difficult ethical questions.

This course explores public health ethics through the lens of social justice (distributive justice, relational justice, structural and epistemic injustice). It does so in conversation with other key concerns of public health (e.g.: efficiency, welfare maximisation, individual liberty) and key concepts (e.g. equality, responsibility, vulnerability, collective action, solidarity).

The foundational concepts and key framings will be explored through their application to current public health topics (e.g. infectious diseases, global health emergencies, smoking, nutrition, vaccination, sexual health).

Students will have the opportunity to apply the skills of ethical reasoning to a variety of current topics and policies through discussion, writing and case studies.

Course description Week 1: Public health: then and now.
Week 2: Public health as if everybody matters: inequalities and social determinants of health.
Week 3: What's the harm? Exploring liberty, coercion and responsibility in public health.
Week 4: Your choice. Paternalisms and nudges in public health policy and interventions.
Week 5: In the same storm: Collective action and solidarity in public health.
Week 6: Not in the same boat: Inequalities and vulnerabilities in public health.
Week 7: 'Legit'. Political legitimacy and ethical justifications in public health.
Week 8: Beyond borders: global public health and justice.
Week 9: Health for all? Public health as a (global) public good.
Week 10: Watching you. Ethical tensions in public health research.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 40, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 156 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) The formative exercise for this course will be to provide an 800 word essay outline, discussing the student's position on a topic, central arguments and reasoning. This is a preparatory exercise, similar an essay plan that student would be expected to do, ahead of their final summative essay.

Summative assessment details:«br /»
1. 4000 word essay (100%)«br /»
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate critical understanding of the principal concepts, theories, and methods of ethical reasoning and argumentation related to various public health topics.
  2. Identify, conceptualise and analyse ethical problems and issues arising in public health, public health policies and interventions
  3. Deal with complex issues and make informed judgements in situations characterised by dilemmas and diverse Interests, values, policies and institutions.
  4. Communicate ethical ideas and positions, appropriately and effectively, using a variety of methods, and to a range of audiences, taking into account the complex and sensitive nature of many public health topics.
Reading List
There will be no set text for this course, but reading lists are likely to include:

1. Anna Mastroianni, Jeffery P. Kahn, Nancy E. Kass, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics, (OUP, 2010).
2. Angus Dawson, ed., Public Health Ethics (CUP, 2011).
3. Faden, Ruth, Justin Bernstein, and Sirine Shebaya, "Public Health Ethics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2020 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.).
4. Madison Powers and Ruth Faden, Structural Injustice: Power, Advantage and Human Rights (OUP 2019).
5. Madison Powers and Ruth Faden, Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy, (OUP, 2006).
6. John Coggon, Keith Syrett, A. M. Viens, Public Health Law: Ethics, Governance, and Regulation (Routledge, 2016)
7. Lawrence O. Gostin, Global Health Law (HUP, 2014).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Agomoni Ganguli Mitra
Course secretaryMs Clare Polson
Tel: (0131 6)51 9704
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