Book Review: What Makes Health Public? A Critical Evaluation of Moral, Legal, and Political Claims in Public Health
Medical Law Review, Vol. 21, 2013, Forthcoming
Posted: 26 Apr 2013
Date Written: March 19, 2013
This is a review of John Coggon’s What Makes Health Public? A Critical Evaluation of Moral, Legal, and Political Claims in Public Health (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012). In this rich and rigorously argued monograph, Coggon argues that questions of public health ethics, including the fundamental question of when health is a matter of public rather than private concern, depend for their resolution on the development of a “complete” political theory. This review explores Coggon’s argument, including his discussion of the terms “health,” “public health,” “public health ethics,” and “public health law,” and his attempt in the final third of the book to develop his own liberal theory. While applauding Coggon’s demonstration that normative debates surrounding public health depend upon broader conceptions of the good, this review argues that Coggon fails to appreciate the impact that public health, in its varied means, may have in informing one’s understanding of the good, and ultimately one’s political theory. The review concludes by offering some examples of ways in which public health problems and practice have influenced political norms.
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