The safety of the people and the case against invasive health promotion
in From reason to practice in bioethics
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This chapter explores John Harris’s ‘safety of the people’ argument, which contends that there is a moral obligation on the modern state to protect its citizens against serious threats to security, safety and welfare. The potentially wide-ranging implications of this argument are examined in the context of current policy trends towards regulating and restricting individual health behaviour relating to, for example, smoking and unhealthy diet. It is concluded that although there may be a general obligation on the state to protect, this obligation can only apply to immediate threats. It is further argued that threats from within, such as lacking will power or risk seeking behaviour are not easily equated with threats from without, such as violent attack. The safety of the people argument therefore will not serve as an appropriate moral foundation for state interference in individual lifestyle choices.

From reason to practice in bioethics

An anthology dedicated to the works of John Harris

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