Journal of Medical Ethics 45 (1):71-74 (2019)

Authors
Charlie Blunden
Utrecht University
Abstract
In his paper ‘A libertarian case for mandatory vaccination’, Jason Brennan argues that even libertarians, who are very averse to coercive measures, should support mandatory vaccination to combat the harmful disease outbreaks that can be caused by non-vaccination. He argues that libertarians should accept the clean hands principle, which would justify mandatory vaccination. The principle states that there is a (sometimes enforceable) moral obligation not to participate in collectively harmful activities. Once libertarians accept the principle, they will be compelled to support mandatory vaccination. In my paper, I argue that the cases Brennan uses to justify this principle are disanalogous to the case of non-vaccination and that they are not compelling to libertarians. The cases Brennan offers can be explained by a libertarian using the individual sufficiency principle: which states that if an individual’s action is sufficient to cause harm, then there is a (sometimes enforceable) moral obligation not to carry out that action. I argue that this principle is more appropriate to Brennan’s examples, and more appealing to the libertarian, than the clean hands principle. In order to get libertarians to accept the clean hands principle, I present a modified version of one of Brennan’s cases that is analogous to the case of non-vaccination. Using this case, I argue that whether the clean hands principle will justify mandatory vaccination is dependent on whether the herd immunity rate in a given population is approaching a threshold after which a collective risk of harm will be imposed onto others.
Keywords Political Libertarianism  Vaccination  Collective Action Problems  Mandatory Vaccination
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Reprint years 2019
DOI 10.1136/medethics-2018-104752
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References found in this work BETA

A Libertarian Case for Mandatory Vaccination.Jason Brennan - 2018 - Journal of Medical Ethics 44 (1):37-43.
It Makes No Difference Whether or Not I Do It.Jonathan Glover & M. J. Scott-Taggart - 1975 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 49 (1):171 - 209.
A libertarian case for mandatory vaccination.J. Brennan - 2017 - Journal of Medical Ethics Recent Issues 44 (1):37-43.
Risk.Sven Ove Hansson - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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Citations of this work BETA

An Argument for Compulsory Vaccination: The Taxation Analogy.Alberto Giubilini - 2020 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 37 (3):446-466.
Moral Enhancement and the Public Good.Parker Crutchfield - 2021 - New York, NY, USA: Routledge.

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