Against Moral Responsibilisation of Health: Prudential Responsibility and Health Promotion.
Brown, RCH, Maslen, H, Savulescu, J
Public Health Ethics
In this article, we outline a novel approach to understanding the role of responsibility in health promotion. Efforts to tackle chronic disease have led to an emphasis on personal responsibility and the identification of ways in which people can 'take responsibility' for their health by avoiding risk factors such as smoking and over-eating. We argue that the extent to which agents can be considered responsible for their health-related behaviour is limited, and as such, state health promotion which assumes certain forms of moral responsibility should (in general) be avoided. This indicates that some approaches to health promotion ought not to be employed. We suggest, however, that another form of responsibility might be more appropriately identified. This is based on the claim that agents (in general) have prudential reasons to maintain their health, in order to pursue those things which make their lives go well-i.e. that maintenance of a certain level of health is (all-things-considered) rational for many agents, given their pleasures and plans. On this basis, we propose that agents have a self-regarding prudential responsibility to maintain their health. We outline the implications of a prudential responsibility approach to health promotion.