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Ethical issues in public health surveillance: drawing inspiration from ethical frameworks


The issues raised by public health surveillance are typical of those involved in public health ethics. Surveillance calls, in particular, for the balancing of individual rights and collective interests, which are often in conflict. One of the issues most closely linked with public health surveillance is the collection and use of personal data for purposes of public concern. Numerous frameworks (proposed by institutions, working groups or single individuals) are available for use in assessing the ethical correctness of public health interventions in general or, more specifically, of public health surveillance. While heterogeneous in nature, these frameworks are nonetheless built on a foundation of common values that are similar to those typically encountered in a clinical setting and to which bioethics has traditionally devoted considerable attention. However, it is necessary to apply these values to the specific context of public health, where the focus is more on the interests of the public at large than on those of the individual.


bioethics; health surveillance; guidelines; public health

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