Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Khoo S.
UNESCO Bioethics Ireland Roundtable Workshop
Bioethics, public ethics and collective capabilities: thinking a common world
NUI Galway
Conference Organising Committee Chairperson
Optional Fields
This paper gathers the strands of bioethics, public ethics and collective capabilities. It positions public health ethics centrally, asking how health can contribute to central debates linking bioethics, public ethics, public goods, development ethics and collective capabilities. Numerous contributions to debates about the SDGs highlight ‘health in all policies’, health as the goal of development, and as the indicator for whether development is happening. The key proposal is to set this ambition for health within debates about collective capabilities, using the normativity of health to distinguish between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ collective (or public) capabilities. The discussion responds urgently to rising negative collective capabilities and the ‘sinkhole effect’ of the current rise in ‘negative capabilities’ which collectively influence individuals’ reasoning and choices. The paper conceptualizes and visualizes the bioethics-public ethics-collective capabilities nexus. Public health ethics can be mapped onto new public goods theory (Khoo 2015) to provide alternatives that substitute positive public health capabilities for negative collective capabilities. Public health aligns well with collective capabilities since it is concerned with society’s interest in assuring conditions in which people can be healthy (Koplan & Fleming 2000). ‘Future public health’ is similar, but even more expansive, concerning ‘the organised efforts of society in preserving and enhancing all that makes life worth living for everyone and to give every individual and community reasons to value their existence and contribution’(Hanlon et al 2011). Four main pillars of public health ethics can be identified: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. These four ethical pillars can be matched to four obligations that can be directly linked to development ethics, goals and programming: i) identifying and minimising burdens of collective programmes ii) fair procedures for dealing with burdens iii) reducing morbidity and mortality iv) reliable scientific evidence as an underpinning. In view of current socio-political developments, the discussion raises questions about scientific evidence and how public understandings of science connect to negative and positive individual and collective capabilities for public health.
UNESCO Bioethics Ireland
Publication Themes
Applied Social Sciences and Public Policy, Environment, Marine and Energy, Humanities in Context