Grounding Public Health Policies in Ethics and Economic Efficiency: SESPAS Report 2010 Articles uri icon

publication date

  • December 2010

start page

  • 120

end page

  • 127


  • Supl. 1


  • 24

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0213-9111

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1578-1283


  • Objectives: In recent times, various voices in Spain have questioned public health policies as an assault to personal freedom. The present article aims to respond to these voices with ethical and economic arguments. Methods: The scope and characteristics of this current of opinion are described. Then, starting with John Stuart Mill, the ethical principles of non-maleficence, beneficence, personal autonomy and justice, as well as related concepts taken from economic efficiency, such as externalities, monopoly, incomplete and asymmetric information, agency relationship, public goods and adverse selection, are discussed. A short mention is made of equity in economics, the welfare state and public health systems. The justification for paternalist actions by the state, as well as limits to these actions, are briefly discussed. Conclusion: Respect for individual freedom does not exclude the implementation of public health actions but rather demands the adoption of such policies. If these actions comply with certain conditions, they do not limit individual freedom but rather serve to protect it.