J.S. Mill and the American Law of Quarantine

Posted: 30 Sep 2008

See all articles by Wendy E. Parmet

Wendy E. Parmet

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: August 28, 2008


This paper looks at the American law of quarantine in light of the teachings of John Stuart Mill, whose harm principle has often been used to justify the practice of isolating and/or quarantining individuals to prevent the spread of an infectious disease. The paper shows that despite important parallels between quarantine law and both the authorizing and prohibitive aspects of Mill's harm principle, the contemporary law of quarantine does not reflect either Mill's concern for the potential abuse of executive authority nor his recognition that quarantine is only ethically justified when the broader public health policy environment in which quarantine is applied is itself ethically sound.

Suggested Citation

Parmet, Wendy E., J.S. Mill and the American Law of Quarantine (August 28, 2008). Public Health Ethics, 2008; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 23-2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1260387

Wendy E. Parmet (Contact Author)

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