Abstract Vaccine refusal occurs for a variety of reasons. In this article we examine vaccine refusals that are made on conscientious grounds that is, for religious, moral, or philosophical reasons. We focus on two questions: first, whether people should be entitled to conscientiously object to vaccination against contagious diseases (either for themselves or for their children) second, if so, to what constraints or requirements should conscientious objection (CO) to vaccination be subject. To address these questions, we consider an analogy between CO to vaccination and CO to military service. We argue that conscientious objectors to vaccination should make an appropriate contribution to society in lieu of being vaccinated. The contribution to be made will depend on the severity of the relevant disease(s), its morbidity, and also the likelihood that vaccine refusal will lead to harm. In particular, the contribution required will depend on whether the rate of CO in a given population threatens herd immunity to the disease in question: for severe or highly contagious diseases, if the population rate of CO becomes high enough to threaten herd immunity, the requirements for CO could become so onerous that CO, though in principle permissible, would be de facto impermissible.
Abstract The recent confirmation of the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) by the US Supreme Court has brought to the fore long-standing debates over individual liberty and religious freedom. Advocates of personal liberty are often critical, particularly in the USA, of public health measures which they deem to be overly restrictive of personal choice. In addition to the alleged restrictions of individual freedom of choice when it comes to the question of whether or not to purchase health insurance, opponents to the PPACA also argue that certain requirements of the Act violate the right to freedom of conscience by mandating support for services deemed immoral by religious groups. These issues continue the long running debate surrounding the demands of religious groups for special consideration in the realm of health care provision. In this paper I examine the requirements of the PPACA, and the impacts that religious, and other ideological, exemptions can have on public health, and argue that the exemptions provided for by the PPACA do not in fact impose unreasonable restrictions on religious freedom, but rather concede too much and in so doing endanger public health and some important individual liberties.
Extract In the end, although the ACA has made significant headway in expanding insurance coverage of contraception, the controversy surrounding religious and moral objections to contraception means that policy makers continue to struggle to ensure access to this important public health service while respecting religious freedom.
Extract The correct measure of the public health burden of a discrete event is its incidence: the annual per capita rate of occurrence of the event of interest in the relevant population group. As we reported, the incidence of induced abortion in Peru is as high as, or higher than, the incidence in Britain and the United States, but in Peru this practice is illegal, performed clandestinely and potentially unsafe. . . .he is probably correct in his assertion that the legal restrictions in Peru result in relatively fewer pregnancies being terminated in that country than in Britain or the United States; that is, there are more unwanted births in Peru. . . The high incidence of induced abortion clearly indicates a high incidence of unwanted pregnancy.
Abstract Antibiotic resistance menaces the population as a dire public health threat and costly social problem. Recent proposals to combat antibiotic resistance focus to a large degree on supply side approaches. Suggestions include tinkering with patent rights so that pharmaceutical companies have greater incentives to discover novel antibiotics as well as to resist overselling their newer drugs already on market. This Article argues that a primarily supply side emphasis unfortunately detracts attention from physicians’ important demand side influences. Physicians have a vital and unavoidably necessary role to play in ensuring socially optimal access to antibiotics. Dismayingly, physicians’ management of the antibiotic supply has been poor and their defense of population health tepid at best. Acting as a prudent steward of the antibiotic supply often seems to be at odds with a physician’s commonly understood fiduciary duties, ethical obligations, and professional norms, all of which traditionally emphasize the individual health paradigm as opposed to population health responsibilities. Meanwhile, physicians face limited incentives for antibiotic conservation from other sources, such as malpractice liability, regulatory standards, and reimbursement systems. While multifaceted efforts are needed to combat antibiotic resistance effectively, physician gatekeeping behavior should become a priority area of focus. This Article considers how health law and policy tools could favorably change the incentives physicians face for antibiotic conservation. A clear lesson from the managed care reform battles of the recent past is that interventions, to have the best chance of success, need to respect physician interest in clinical autonomy and individualized medicine even if, somewhat paradoxically, vigorously promoting population health perspectives. Also, physicians’ legal and ethical obligations need to be reconceptualized in the antibiotic context in order to better support gatekeeping in defense of population health. The principal recommendation is for increased use of financial incentives to reward physicians for compliance with recommended guidelines on antibiotic prescribing. Although not a panacea, greater experimentation with financial incentives can provide a much needed jump-start to physician interest in antibiotic conservation and likely best address physicians’ legitimate clinical autonomy concerns.
LL Wynn, Joanna N Erdman, Angel M Foster, James Trussell
Abstract This article compares the ethical pivot points in debates over nonprescription access to emergency contraceptive pills in Canada and the United States. These include women’s right to be informed about the contraceptive method and its mechanism of action, pharmacists’ conscientious objection concerning the dispensing of emergency contraceptive pills, and rights and equality of access to the method, especially for poor women and minorities. In both countries, arguments in support of expanding access to the pills were shaped by two competing orientations toward health and sexuality. The first, “harm reduction,” promotes emergency contraception as attenuating the public health risks entailed in sex. The second orientation regards access to pills as a question of women’s right to engage in nonprocreative sex and to choose from among all reproductive health-care options. The authors contend that arguments for expanding access to emergency contraceptive pills that frame issues in terms of health and science are insufficient bases for drug regulation; ultimately, women’s health is also a matter of women’s rights.
Extract Public health officials may have legitimate questions about the merits of HPV vaccine mandates, in light of the financial and logistic burdens these may impose on families and schools, and also may be uncertain about adverse-event rates in mass-scale programs. But given that the moral objections to requiring HPV vaccination are largely emotional, this source of resistance to mandates is difficult to justify.
Extract We question Savulescu’s statement that a specialist valuing her own life more than her duty to her patients during a bird flu epidemic would be demonstrating values “incompatible with being a doctor.” . . . recklessly to treat a highly contagious individual without taking adequate precautions would be imprudent and irresponsible. Equity and fairness requires a professional to judiciously balance the needs of one patient with the needs of others, including those of his or her own family.
Abstract The fact that certain vaccines are grown in cell strains derived decades ago from an aborted fetus is a concern for some. To understand such concerns, a standardized search identified internet sites discussing vaccines and abortion. Ethical concerns raised include autonomy, conscience, coherence, and immoral material complicity. Two strategies to analyse moral complicity show that vaccination is ethical: the abortions were past events separated in time, agency, and purpose from vaccine production. Rubella disease during pregnancy results in many miscarriages and malformations. Altruism, the burden of rubella disease, and protection by herd immunity argue for widespread vaccination although autonomous decisions and personal conscience should be respected.
Extract Religious fundamentalism and a lack of resources are the chief barriers to achieving sexual and reproductive rights for all by 2015, concluded the 2004 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) . . . Katherine McDonald, president of Action Canada for Population and Development, said that advocates of the Cairo consensus have been overly distracted by their efforts to isolate and shame US and conservative backlash and must reinvest in a commitment to human rights. “In-depth policy analyses of sexual, reproductive, and abortion rights are lacking,” she said.