Book Review of 'Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint' by Lawrence O. Gostin
Posted: 2 Apr 2002
This is a review of a recent book that sets out to develop and promote a new vision of law as an essential tool of public health. Part One of this volume explores Conceptual Foundations of Public Health Law. Part Two addresses in depth the conflict between public health actions and personal civil liberties, while noting that frequently these two considerations work synergistically rather than in opposition. In Part Three, Gostin presents an admittedly subjective account of public health law and proffers guidelines for the future of public health law that are driven by considerations of "consistency and uniformity of approach, mission and essential functions, powers, substantive limits, procedural limits, and protection against discrimination and invasion of privacy." The reviewer pronounces this book "a monumental contribution, from the discipline of law, to the multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary theory and practice of public health." However, the reviewer notes the controversial nature of Gostin's advocating a carefully constrained and narrowly delineated interventionist role for government, at all levels, on behalf of the public's health when interventions may conflict with the civil liberties of distinct persons, while at the same time advocating an energetically activist government public health presence when the behavior of commercial enterprises is the subject of regulation.
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