Taking responsibility for responsibility

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Governments, physicians, media and academics have all called for individuals to bear responsibility for their own health. In this article, I argue that requiring those with adverse health outcomes to bear responsibility for these outcomes is a bad basis for policy. The available evidence strongly suggests that the capacities for responsible choice, and the circumstances in which these capacities are exercised, are distributed alongside the kinds of goods we usually talk about in discussing distributive justice, and this distribution significantly explains why people make bad health choices. These facts suggest that we cannot justifiably hold them responsible for these choices. We do better to hold responsible those who determine the ways in which capacities and circumstances are distributed: they are indirectly responsible for these adverse health outcomes and possess the capacities and resources to take responsibility for these facts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-113
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Ethics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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