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Harmful rights-doing? The perceived problem of liberal paradigms and public health
  1. J Coggon
  1. John Coggon, Centre for Social Ethics and Policy and Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation, School of Law, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK; John.Coggon{at}


The focus of this paper is public health law and ethics, and the analytic framework advanced in the report Public health: ethical issues by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. The author criticises the perceived problems found with liberal models associated with Millian political philosophy and questions the Report’s attempt to add to such theoretical frameworks. The author suggests a stronger theoretical account that the Council could have adopted—that advanced in the works of Joseph Raz—which would have been more appropriate. Instead of seeking to justify overruling the legitimate interests of individuals in favour of society, this account holds that the interests are necessarily interwoven and thus such a conflict does not exist. It is based on an objective moral account and does not require an excessive commitment to individuals’ entitlements.

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  • Competing interests: None.

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