Issues with public health and individual rights

The democratic right to choose. 

Yet when your choices affect my own rights, how do we navigate this terrain?

If you really do not want to wear a bike helmet, then any injury you sustain is on you. Don’t blame the bumpy road or the stranger who stepped in your path. Sadly in our blame based litigation culture, people will often blame the other even for their choice to not wear a bike helmet. Because of this, we regulate bike helmets in many countries. 

If you want to drive a car and speed through a children’s school zone then you risk the lives of children. This becomes a public health issue.

If someone coughs all over us how do we feel? If they cough all over us in an airborne viral pandemic, is this worse? Who has the rights? The person coughing or the person being coughed over?

Public health comes from the position that if I choose to participate in a public place then I need to be responsible for how my actions may affect another’s.

If this offends your rights then realise that you cannot demand your rights without also granting the equal demand of rights to another. 

Once upon a time, people faced the real danger of getting smallpox or polio. Both terrible diseases that have existed for hundreds or even thousands of years. The risk of death with smallpox was 30%, even higher in babies, and it was estimated to kill 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence.

Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 because of smallpox inoculation, which was first created in China in the 1500s. Thank goodness we now live in a world free of this disease. As a babe born in the Pacific Islands in the 60’s I wear the mark of my smallpox inoculation. 

Human’s do many bad things for many bad reasons. We also do many bad things for many good reasons. And sometimes we get it right. Eradicating smallpox was one of those good things. 

Public health should never be entangled with a profit-making incentive. Ever. Overprescribing any medicine to make as much money as possible is perverse and in my mind criminal. Yet it is the domain of alcohol, gambling, drugs, medication and possibly vaccination. Public health thrown under the bus for the game of ‘make as much money as we can.’

Public health should always be about the health of ALL people.

As citizens living in public spaces, we can contribute to the health and wellbeing of our fellow citizens. 

Or we can speed through a school zone or cough or sneeze on others, drop our litter on the street, smoke in public and refuse to engage as members of community because we demand our rights. 

If there is a continuum with my individual rights on one end, and the community rights on the other, where do we play and why?

These are great questions to consider deeply and to answer honestly.

Photo taken June 30th 2021

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