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Stigma and the ethics of public health: Not can we but should we

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  • Bayer, Ronald
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    Abstract

    In the closing decades of the 20th century, a broadly shared view took hold that the stigmatization of those who were already vulnerable provided the context within which diseases spread, exacerbating morbidity and mortality by erecting barriers between caregivers and those who were sick and by imposing obstacles upon those who would intervene to contain the spread of illness. In this view, it was the responsibility of public health officials to counteract stigma if they were to fulfill their mission to protect the communal health. Furthermore, because stigma imposed unfair burdens on those who were already at social disadvantage, the process of stigmatization implicated the human right to dignity. Hence, to the instrumental reason for seeking to extirpate stigma, was added a moral concern. But is it true that stigmatization always represents a threat to public health? Are there occasions when the mobilization of stigma may effectively reduce the prevalence of behaviors linked to disease and death? And if so, how ought we to think about the human rights issues that are involved?

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 67 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 3 (August)
    Pages: 463-472

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:67:y:2008:i:3:p:463-472

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    Related research

    Keywords: Stigma HIV Ethics Public Health Policy Tobacco Human Rights Smoking;

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    Cited by:
    1. Easter, Michele M., 2012. "“Not all my fault”: Genetics, stigma, and personal responsibility for women with eating disorders," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1408-1416.
    2. Ovrum, Arnstein & Gustavsen, Geir Waehler & Rickertsen, Kyrre, 2012. "Health inequalities over the adult life course: the role of lifestyle choices," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 125862, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Lewis, Sophie & Thomas, Samantha L. & Blood, R. Warwick & Castle, David J. & Hyde, Jim & Komesaroff, Paul A., 2011. "How do obese individuals perceive and respond to the different types of obesity stigma that they encounter in their daily lives? A qualitative study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(9), pages 1349-1356.
    4. Hakkarainen, Pekka, 2013. "Tobacco Road Finland – How did an accepted pleasure turn into an avoidable risk behaviour?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 253-259.

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