Book Review: Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy

20 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2012

See all articles by Robin L. West

Robin L. West

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: March 12, 2012


In this pathbreaking book, senior bioethicists Powers and Faden confront foundational issues about health and justice. How much inequality in health can a just society tolerate? In a world filled with inequalities in health and well-being, which inequalities matter most and are the most morally urgent to address? In order to answer these questions, Powers and Faden develop a unique theory of social justice that, while developed for the specific contexts of public health and health policy, applies equally well to other realms of social policy, including education and economic development. The book includes a careful comparison of Powers and Faden's approach to social justice with those of other theorists, including notably Rawls, Sen, and Nussbaum. With their eyes firmly fixed on the injustices of this world and what is known about their causal determinants, Powers and Faden place a six dimensional theory of well-being at the heart of their theory of justice. They then explore the implications of this theory for public health, the medical market place, and the setting of priorities in health policy. In the process, they arrive at arresting conclusions about the moral foundations of public health, childhood, the relevance of social groups to questions of justice, and the proper role for economic analysis in social policy. The audience for the book is scholars and students of bioethics and moral and political philosophy, as well as anyone interested in public health and health policy.

Keywords: health and justice, social inequalities, bioethics, individual welfare

JEL Classification: K10, K30, K32, K39

Suggested Citation

West, Robin L., Book Review: Social Justice: The Moral Foundations of Public Health and Health Policy (March 12, 2012). DePaul Journal of Health Care Law, Vol. 10, pp. 567-585, 2007, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-026, Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-009, Available at SSRN:

Robin L. West (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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