Public health: necessary coercion?

See this from the fall 2003 issue of Dissent; though bland and irreproachable, the article raises an important issue. I find the main points unexceptionable -- the problems start when the rubber meets the road and quite reasonable people fail to believe that public health practitioners are acting in their own best interests. I am thinking of the recent controversies over mandatory reporting of AIDS cases in New York state, where most of the parties on both sides of the dispute agreed that such reporting would be useful in controlling HIV transmission. Opponents of such reporting, however, claimed that AIDS constitutes such a stigma that it cannot be reported. What is one to say in response to the claim that invaded privacy is primary?

I don't think one can expect full cooperation even when the public health infrastructure (let alone the government as a whole) is regarded as trustworthy. Coercion means exactly that, and even when a government acts morally its constituents might still be displeased.

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