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Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics

Mason and McCall Smith's Law and Medical Ethics (12th edn)

Anne-Maree Farrell and Edward S. Dove
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date: 26 February 2024

p. 1927. Public Healthlocked

p. 1927. Public Healthlocked

  • A. M. FarrellA. M. FarrellChair of Medical Jurisprudence at the University of Edinburgh
  •  and E. S. DoveE. S. DoveReader in Health Law and Regulation at the University of Edinburgh


This chapter covers the efforts undertaken by the UK’s four nations to address aspects of public health, including both communicable (or infectious) and non-communicable disease, through law and policy. We consider the Covid-19 pandemic and its demonstration of the limitations and strengths of the existing organisations, infrastructure, laws, and regulations to address matters of public health. This in turn has generated a good amount of public disquiet about the role of the state in interfering with individual liberties and the appropriate balance to be struck between protection of the population’s health—what is considered the state’s most important responsibility—and individual choice and liberty—something often seen as a matter of primary value in our society and a component of our fundamental rights. As we come to see, more than most other areas of medicine and law, public health is fundamentally a political endeavour.

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