Ethical Principles of Public Health

By Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

Consider sending this to the physicians you know and asking if they would be willing to sign. If they are unwilling, consider asking them which of the principles they object to and why.

During the SARS2 coronavirus pandemic, fundamental principles of public health were ignored, and trust in public health has been damaged. As experts in public health, medical science, ethics, and health policy, we propose the following ten principles to guide public health officials and scientists, in order to ensure the credibility of public health recommendations and to help restore public trust.
Hillsdale Academy for Science and Freedom

Ethical Principles of Public Health

1.   All public health advice should consider the impact on overall health, rather than solely be concerned with a single disease. It should always consider both benefits and harms from public health measures and weigh short-term gains against long-term harms.

2.   Public health is about everyone. Any public health policy must first and foremost protect society’s most vulnerable, including children, low-income families, persons with disabilities and the elderly. It should never shift the burden of disease from the affluent to the less affluent.

3.   Public health advice should be adapted to the needs of each population, within cultural, religious, geographic, and other contexts.

4.   Public health is about comparative risk evaluations, risk reduction, and reducing uncertainties using the best available evidence, since risk usually cannot be entirely eliminated.

5.   Public health requires public trust. Public health recommendations should present facts as the basis for guidance, and never employ fear or shame to sway or manipulate the public.

6.   Medical interventions should not be forced or coerced upon a population, but rather should be voluntary and based on informed consent.  Public health officials are advisors, not rule setters, and provide information and resources for individuals to make informed decisions.

7.   Public health authorities must be honest and transparent, both with what is known and what is not known. Advice should be evidence-based and explained by data, and authorities must acknowledge errors or changes in evidence as soon as they are made aware of them..

8.   Public health scientists and practitioners should avoid conflicts-of-interest, and any unavoidable conflicts-of-interest must be clearly stated.

9.   In public health, open civilized debate is profoundly important. It is unacceptable for public health professionals to censor, silence or intimidate members of the public or other public health scientists or practitioners.

10. It is critical for public health scientists and practitioners always to listen to the public, who are living the public health consequences of public health decisions, and to adapt appropriately.

Download the Statement (PDF)

Co-Authors (in alphabetical order):

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D.

President, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC USA

Scott W. Atlas, M.D.

Robert Wesson Senior Fellow in Health Policy, Hoover Institution, Stanford University; Founding Fellow, Academy for Science and Freedom, Hillsdale College, USA; Co-Director, Global Liberty Institute, Switzerland

David Bell, MBBS, Ph.D.

Public health physician, Texas, USA

Jay Bhattacharya, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor, Health Policy, and Director, Center on the Demography and Economics of Health and Aging, Stanford University School of Medicine; Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR); Founding Fellow, Academy for Science and Freedom, Hillsdale College, USA

David Doat, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy, ETHICS Laboratory, Catholic University of Lille, France; Associate Researcher at the ESPHIN Institute, University of Namur, Belgium

Carl Heneghan, B.M., B.C.H, M.A., M.R.C.G.P., D.Phil.

Director, Centre for Evidence-based Medicine and Professor, University of Oxford, UK

Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

Senior Fellow, Zephyr Institute; Chief of Medical Ethics, The Unity Project; Fellow and Director, Bioethics and American Democracy Program, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC, USA

Martin Kulldorff, Ph.D.

Professor of Medicine, Harvard University, USA (on leave); Senior Scholar, Brownstone Institute; Founding Fellow, Academy for Science and Freedom, Hillsdale College, USA

Robert W. Malone, M.D., M.Sc.

Molecular immunologist, Founder, The Malone Foundation, Virginia, USA

Peter A. McCullough, M.D., M.P.H.

Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases; Chief Medical Advisor, Truth for Health Foundation, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Elisabeth Paul, Ph.D.

Independent consultant, Health Policies and Systems, Liège, Belgium

Roger Severino

Vice President, The Heritage Foundation; Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington DC, USA

Ellen Townsend, PhD

Professor of Psychology; Self-Harm Research Group, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, UK


This article was originally published by the Hillsdale Academy for Science and Freedom. It is reposted here, thanks to Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

Hillsdale Academy for Science and Freedom

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