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Week 5: Safeguarding Individual Rights and Freedoms
The Constitution protects an individual’s rights and freedoms by limiting the power of the government. This helps protect an individual’s rights of autonomy, privacy, liberty, and property. Without these protections, an individual’s rights could be disregarded and the good of the general population would consistently take precedence.
This week you will examine the Constitution’s role in safeguarding individual rights and freedoms and how that relates to public health policy and law. Through examining Supreme Court public health cases, you will explore the reasoning behind limiting the power of government to protect the public’s health; you will also consider ways in which public health practices, at times, can violate individual freedoms.
Evaluate the importance of protecting individual rights and freedoms such as autonomy, privacy, liberty, and property in the development of public health policy and practice
Liberty, Autonomy, Privacy, and Property
Public health agencies, like the legal system as a whole, have grappled with the question of when it is and is not appropriate for the government to interfere with a person’s autonomy, privacy, liberty, or property for the sake of a healthier, safer population. Reflect on your own perspective and feelings regarding this question. Consider the impact of placing an individual’s rights before the public’s health and how this influences public health law.
Choose one of the public health issues outlined in “Table 4: Public health and the Bill of Rights” on pages 115–116 of the textbook. Read one or more of the corresponding cases (these are found in the Table and throughout the text). Then, consider how these cases impact an individual’s freedom, public health law practice, and its associated amendment.
Gostin, L.O. (2008). Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint. Berkely, CA: University of California Press.
• Identify the case(s) you selected. Discuss the specific individual rights and liberties that are at stake and whether the courts’ decisions are justified. Would you have decided the case in the same way and, if not, how would you decide and what reasons would you give?
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