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|Title: ||Vulnerability and Marginalized Populations|
|Authors: ||Wrigley, A|
|Issue Date: ||Apr-2016|
|Citation: ||Wrigley A., Dawson A. Vulnerability and Marginalized Populations, chapter 7, pp. 203-240, In: D.H. Barrett et al. (eds.), Public Health Ethics: Cases Spanning the Globe, Public Health Ethics Analysis 3, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-23847-0_7, Springer Open, April 2016, available online at http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-3-319-23847-0, © The Author(s) 2016|
|Abstract: ||Public health practitioners attempt to identify and then remove, or at least reduce,
threats of harm. However, harm does not affect everyone in the same way. Some
people and communities are resilient, whereas others are more susceptible to potential
harm. Much public health work is carried out by, or on behalf of, government s.
Where people or communities are at great risk of harm, government has a clear and
fi rm responsibility to protect its citizens. One way of describing a potential source
of such a risk of harm is to focus on the idea of vulnerability . This introduction
explores the concept of ‘vulnerability’ and the role that it may play in public health.
Vulnerability is a concept often used in public health ethics and more broadly in
bioethics —but its exact meaning is unclear. Roughly, it indicates that an individual
or group is thought to have a particular status that may adversely impact upon their
well-being, and that this implies an ethical duty to safeguard that well-being because
the person or group is unable to do so adequately themselves. This concept, although
important, consistently eludes precise defi nition. The diffi culty in defi ning the concept
arises from disagreement as to how to characterize the idea of “special status”
and to whom it applies. As a result, more and more categories of individuals and
groups are being classifi ed as vulnerable in an ever-increasing range of situations.
This raises the concern that almost everyone can be classifi ed as vulnerable in some way and, in turn, that almost every activity now requires this additional attention. If
true, then the concept of ‘vulnerability’ ceases to be useful because if everyone is
vulnerable, then no one is.
There is currently no clear, single, defi nitive account of this concept that is universally
accepted, although numerous different approaches have been adopted by, for
example, various international bodies in their guideline s. In this chapter, we shall
critically examine some leading defi nitions of vulnerability and attempt to explain
and classify them to make clear the differences in approach. Then we will offer an
account of vulnerability that seeks to provide a universal basis for the everyday use
of the concept while avoiding the pitfalls associated with the other defi nitions. Our
approach aims to reduce the concept to a simple role, not as a basic moral concept in
its own right, but as a marker, or signal, to public health practitioners that something
in the situation before them requires ethical attention. The real ethical work is to be
done by the practitioner, not by vague appeal to the idea of vulnerability, but via the
application of other concepts and ethical concerns that are already familiar in public
health and bioethics . We shall use case studies to illustrate how this approach works.|
|Description: ||book chapter; CC BY-NC 2.5|
|Type of Work: ||Book chapter|
|Appears in Collections:||Research Papers and Publications. Sydney Health Ethics|
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