After spending a full day discussing legal implications in Public Health and sharing our experiences from several countries and continents, it was time to start our ethics journey.
The two excellent teachers (Peter Schroeder-Back from Maastricht University and Miguel Ángel Royo from Instituto de Salud Carlos III) started by introducing us to the basics of ethics, including the different theories and their meaning. We quickly moved to the concept of Public Health ethics, and its own intersections with the law, the individual freedom of choice, justice and, of course, what applies when there is a disaster. We moved to the ethical principles that should be respected when making a decision, and a decision-making framework was presented.
Then, the truly practical moment started: we were faced with a case study and we had to discuss whether it was ethical to have mandatory vaccination during a measles outbreak. First in small groups, then in plenary, we discussed the ethical principles involved, whether we should allow unvaccinated children to go to school, and if a court order to immunize children was justified. A constructive and interesting debate arose: we were faced with the difficulty of respecting individual choice while ensuring community protection.
At the end, we left the workshop knowing for sure that there are no easy answers. Nevertheless, knowing the ethical principles, the law that applies to the situation we are working on and being in a good team are great steps on that direction.
Personally, this workshop was a great experience for someone like me who works as a Public Health practitioner, and who is already confronted with similar situations in my everyday professional life. Furthermore, sharing it with experienced colleagues made the discussions richer and interesting for those who have a particular interest in public health policy.
This blog entry was written by Young Gasteiner Sofia Ribeiro.