Clearly, scientific investigation has extended and enhanced the quality of life and increased our understanding of ourselves, our relationships with others, and the natural world. It is one of the foundations of our society's material, intellectual, and social progress. For many citizens, scientific discoveries have alleviated the suffering caused by disease or disability. Nonetheless, the prospect of gaining such valuable scientific knowledge need not and should not be pursued at the expense of human rights or human dignity.
National Bioethics Advisory Commission, 2001
Public Health Law & Ethics
Law and ethics may be critical in mediating the approach that public health and judicial professionals may take to improve and protect the public’s health, such as providing public health officers with the authority (and limits) to identify and respond to public health emergencies, as well as providing judicial officers with the authority to compell members of the public to conform their conduct in the interest of the public health and welfare.
On this page, we make available select resources or references that public health and judicial professionals may find useful as they contemplate or consider responses to issues affecting the public health and welfare.
- Law and ethics readings: browse the text, "Public Health Law and Ethics: A Reader," (Gostin, L. 2002) to learn more about special legal and ethical issues pertinent to public health
- Primer on public health law: access educational modules for on online course titled "The Legal Basis of Public Health"
- Emergency public health law training: take the CDC’s online public health emergency official and providers’ training course in public health emergency law
- Judicial benchbooks on public health: check out CDC-sponsored and other benchbooks or guides for judiciary professionals addressing laws and court related issues in the context of public health matters (benchbooks for Texas as well as Alaska,* Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah* and Washington)
- Quarantine and isolation for infectious disease outbreaks and other public health emergencies: access this CDC-funded project publication titled Quarantine and Isolation: Lessons Learned from SARS
- Public health preparedness: read the Trust for America’s Health report about the nation’s readiness for dealing with diseases, disasters and bioterrorism; read the HHS Inspector General’s 2007 report on the Public Health Services’ Response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; access the 2008 report, National Action Agenda for Public Health Legal Preparedness, published in the Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics by the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics
Check out the National Academies of Sciences’ Report: Reseach Priorities in Emergency Preparedness and Response for Public Health Systems:
To obtain a broad range of public health statistics, click on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention widget below:
*In preparation or soon to be published
New resources or references will be added here as they become available. If you have suggestions about what we might include on this page, please let us know.