Towards a public health approach to bioethics

Sandra D. Lane, Robert A. Rubinstein, Don Cibula, Noah Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


In this paper we examine the central commitments of bioethical enquiry and reasoning from a public health perspective. We argue that a core element of American national culture is individualism, which resonates in scholarly and popular debates. Our contention is that the habitus of bioethical debate is in large measure animated by an overriding concern with the individual, and the resulting social practice of the community has been to downplay the importance and legitimacy of group-level health care dilemmas. This paper calls for re-focusing of bioethics by employing a public health perspective, which would include a population focus, evidence-based research topics, and engagement of the ethical dilemmas that arise from decisions concerning prevention. Racial and ethnic health disparities throughout the life span of a population in central New York State are used to illustrate the need for a public health focus in bioethics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-36
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - 2000


  • Bioethics and social justice
  • Health disparities in
  • Individualism and bioethics
  • Infant mortality among African-Americans
  • New York State
  • Public health and bioethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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