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Law and the public’s health 

Law and the public’s health
Chapter:
Law and the public’s health
Author(s):

Lawrence Gostin

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199661756.003.0019
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date: 16 September 2019

Public health law safeguards the health and safety of the population, promoting individuals’ rights to life and health, and the realization of social justice. There is sometimes a tension between public health regulation to promote community health and protecting individual liberty and autonomy. Governments have multiple legal tools available to improve the public’s health and safety, ranging from the economic power to tax and spend, to the authority to alter the environments in which people live, through to direct and indirect regulation, including, where necessary, deregulation. Although the law can be a powerful agent for change, intervention can also raise critical social, ethical, or constitutional concerns. These issues are illustrated through four brief case studies in infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, unintentional injuries, and violence to self or others.

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