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date: 24 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Injury, which originates from the Latin word for injustice, is a global health problem that imposes a disproportionately high burden on people in fragile economies. This chapter examines the ethical implications of public health actions to prevent unintentional injuries. The concepts of social justice and autonomy are at the core of common debates about the roles of the state, communities, and individuals in controlling injury. Distinguishing unintentional injuries from violence can undermine an integrated preventive approach. Viewing unintended injuries as resulting from accidents fosters a reluctance to apply principles of justice to them and supports risk acceptance and nonintervention. This chapter first critiques arguments relating to concepts such as responsibility, risk compensation, equity in access to the social determinants of health and the so-called normal opportunity range, personal freedom, health-promoting choices, collective health interests, and the avoidance of third-party harm. This is followed by an exploration of how an ethics framework for public health could assist injury prevention.

Keywords: unintentional injuries, public health ethics, accident, responsibility, social justice, social determinants of health, risk compensation, health-promoting choices, risk acceptance, injury prevention

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