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PHR Article of the Week: Integrating Ethics for the Nation’s Health

In the latest issue of Public Health Reports, May/June 2015, Dr. Lisa Lee, executive director of the U.S. Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, proposes the creation of a new public health ethics office within HHS to serve as a resource for the entire public health profession.


Few events thrust into view the ethical dimensions of public health like the international outbreak of a deadly infection. The recent Ebola virus disease epidemic in western Africa has brought many of these ethical challenges to the headlines. How much risk should we encumber in meeting our professional and humanitarian duty to respond to a deadly public health emergency? How should we resolve the tension between individual liberty and the risk of community-acquired infection? Who should get treatment when there is not enough for everyone? What should local public health officials do when health-care workers who have cared for Ebola patients return to their communities? The Ebola questions are only a few examples of the many complex ethical decisions that public health practitioners must make every day — decisions for which there are few expert resources to consult. Developing such resources, with expertise in science, public health, and ethics, could help guide us through the challenging ethical terrain of both public health emergencies and everyday practice.

This week’s PHR feature article, Integrating Ethics for the Nation’s Health, may be viewed here through June 12.

The official journal of the U.S. Public Health Service and the U.S. Surgeon General since 1878, PHR serves as an informative and accessible resource for practitioners, professors, scholars, and students of public health. Published in collaboration with the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), the bi-monthly, peer-reviewed journal provides important research and presents key discussions on the major issues confronting the public health community. For full access to current content, visit the Public Health Reports website to subscribe.