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Ethical principles and ethical issues in public health1 

Ethical principles and ethical issues in public health1
Ethical principles and ethical issues in public health1

Nancy Kass

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date: 16 May 2022

Public health ethics examine and consider the moral dimensions of public health practice and public health research. While the field of medical ethics dates back hundreds of years, and writings on bioethics began to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s, the field of ‘public health ethics’, articulated as such by name, did not appear significantly in the literature for several more decades. More recently, there has been an explosion of interest in defining public health ethics, examining how it resembles or differs from medical ethics or bioethics, laying out frameworks and codes, and trying to provide both conceptual and practical guidance on how ethics plays a role in public health practice and research. This chapter will describe briefly the history of medical ethics and bioethics; work in bioethics with direct relevance for public health; the principles, codes, and frameworks recently articulated to provide guidance on public health ethics; and discuss the recent and growing literature on ethics and public health research, including whether and how public health research ethics might differ from the ethical guidance and regulations that have been created to more broadly oversee the ethics of research with human participants.

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