Obesity schemes raise ethical debate
GOVERNMENTS and healthcare professionals developing initiatives to tackle obesity should consider potential ethical problems, experts say.
Ethics and public health experts from The Netherlands analysed ethical concerns associated with 60 interventions and policy proposals worldwide.
They identified eight categories of ethical issues, including negative psychosocial consequences, infringement of liberties, and ignoring cultural values associated with eating.
Stigmatising people was unethical, they said, citing the example of a bill in Mississippi, USA, which would make it illegal for restaurants to serve obese customers.
Discrimination included overweight people paying higher insurance premiums or higher prices for airline tickets.
They found invasion of privacy could also be an ethical problem, such as having to provide body weight and lifestyle information to employers.
“The urgency to find solutions for overweight and obesity, sometimes bordering on panic, does certainly not always lead to solutions that are sensitive from an ethical perspective,” they wrote.
They said the fact that objections were raised did not automatically imply that a program should not be implemented, and called for an ethical framework to help decision-making.
Obes Rev 2011, online 4 May
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