Tensions between Paternalism and Libertarian Values in Public Health: A Case for Strong Laws to Curb the Epidemics of Lifestyle Diseases in India
Salim, Kavya, Tensions between Paternalism and Libertarian values in Public health: A case for strong laws to curb the epidemics of Lifestyle diseases in India in LIBERTY: NEW FACETS AND CHANGING DIMENSIONS, (2020) 281-303, NUALS, Kochi.
Posted: 21 Feb 2021 Last revised: 9 Mar 2021
Date Written: June 21, 2020
The state of health in India has deteriorated considerably; not necessarily due to the infectious disease outbreaks alone, but also because of the negligent individual behaviours, poor lifestyle choices and habits. This has made the Indian population an easy target for infections, diseases, and bioterrorism (in the not so distant future). The morbidity and mortality resulting from such lifestyle epidemics challenge public health. Many of the lifestyle choices, behaviours and habits causing lifestyle diseases have escaped from firm laws because of its seemingly ‘self-harming’ nature. It has refrained the State from taking coercive public health interventions.
The focus of this paper is on the tensions between paternalism and libertarian values while securing the goals of protecting public health, especially in the case of lifestyle diseases. This paper explores the legitimate role of a paternal State in intervening with behaviours, lifestyle choices, and habits of individuals that are a risk and has the scope of affecting the public health, thus increasing the morbidity and mortality incidences. In this context, the paper critically examines the theories of Dworkin, Mill, and Rawls.
It is advocated through this paper that, the paternal State in India must notice the ‘public-harm’ caused by lifestyle diseases, and that it is more than justified in imposing reasonable restrictions on negligent individual behaviours, poor lifestyle choices and habits if it threatens the future of public health and survival.
Keywords: paternalism, libertarian values, lifestyle diseases, public health, coercive public health intervention
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