Discussion Question -PHN-600-Topic 6 DQ 1

Discussion Question -PHN-600-Topic 6 DQ 1

Topic 6 DQ 1  

After reading various topic resources and textbook chapters, summarize a historical ethical dilemma in public health. How may this relate to a current ethical dilemma? Were there any lessons learned from the historical event that can help public health nurses address the current ethical dilemma?




Discussion Question -PHN-600-Topic 6 DQ 1


One of the historical ethical dilemmas in public health relates to the Hippocratic maxim. Public health officials, just like primary health caregivers, should avoid doing any harm to their patients. Most of the time, public health officials will be involved in preventative actions and therefore appear less likely to cause any harm to their patients compared to primary caregivers who provide diagnostic and curative interventions (Tulchinsky, 2018). However, in the 20th century, public health campaigns have shown that preventative efforts instigated by public health officials can have adverse effects on populations. For example, the malaria control public health campaign presents various ethical dilemmas to public health officials related to the principle of non-maleficence. Research has therefore shown that the lack of consistent malaria control efforts in endemic regions causes more harm to populations that do not form the needed acquired immunity and could therefore be at risk of adverse outcomes in case of infection. If public health efforts to control malaria are discontinued, it can expose a significant proportion of populations to adverse outcomes after contracting malaria because such programs play a significant role in preventing the onset of acquired immunity in such populations(Tulchinsky, 2018).

The unintended effect of public health programs of weakening acquired immunity across populations relates to the current covid-19 pandemic.  Before the development of vaccination programs, most public health nurses were advising members of the public to adopt social distancing measures to prevent themselves from covid-19 infections (Kooli, 2021). However, some public health nurses were torn between allowing people to contract the virus and acquire the required immunity or await for vaccinations that were being developed in a fast-paced environment and could have a high risk of adverse reactions in populations.


Kooli, C. (2021). COVID-19: Public health issues and ethical dilemmas. Ethics, Medicine and Public Health, 17, 100635. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemep.2021.100635

Tulchinsky, T. H. (2018). Ethical Issues in Public Health. Case Studies in Public Health, 277–316. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-12-804571-8.00027-5