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  • Edited by John G. Culhane, Health Law Institute, Widener University, School of Law
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
December 2010
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:

Book description

This book approaches a variety of social and political issues that have become highly polarized and resistant to compromise by examining them through a population-based public health perspective. The topics included are some of the most contentious: abortion and reproductive rights; end-of-life issues, including the right to die and the treatment of pain; the connection between racism and poor health outcomes for African-Americans; the right of same-sex couples to marry; the toll of gun violence and how to reduce it; domestic violence and how the criminal justice model fails to deal with it effectively; and how tort compensation and punitive damages can further public health goals. People at every point along the political spectrum will find the book enlightening and informative. Written by eight authors, all of whom have cross-disciplinary expertise, this book shifts the focus away from the point of view of rights, politics, or morality and examines the effect of laws and policies from the perspective of public health and welfare.


"John Culhane has edited a volume of great originality and timeliness. The book covers many of the most politically and socially charged issues facing American health policy—birth and death, civil rights, violence, and tort litigation.

[H]e, and the eminent authors he has assembled, do not rehash the same tired arguments and political divisions that characteristically envelop these political hot buttons. Readers are rescued from the tired values debates that paralyze effective policy discourse—the right to life, gun rights, gay rights, and so forth…. Instead, the book applies a population-based perspective, which illuminates what really is at stake. [I]t is truly remarkable that few scholars have stopped to rigorously examine what the consequence for the public’s health would be if decisions were made in certain directions. Culhane’s book admirably fills that gap in academic and policy discourse.

Policy makers need to read Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates. Just as important, scholars in health law and bioethics need to begin to re-conceptualize their thinking and writing to incorporate the population based perspective. Culhane and his colleagues have opened a fresh pathway to reasoned scholarship and policy going forward for the most controversial issues of our day."

-Lawrence O. Gostin
O’Neill Professor of Global Health Law
Georgetown University Law Center

"Reconsidering Law and Policy Debates: A Public Health Perspective…is a superb collection of thought-provoking essays which features some of the most well-regarded health law scholars in the US. It also includes contributors from schools of public health, public affairs, and public administration. The chapters are uniformly well-written and instructive….

John Culhane is to be commended for bringing together such an illustrious group of contributors to address public health, an issue that has been neglected in law schools. ... Well after the sturm und drang surrounding the constitutionality of [health care reform] has dissolved, we will still face problems of balancing liberty, equality, and welfare that this book’s thoughtful contributors address. Their voices deserve to be heard in those future, more substantive, debates."

- Frank Pasquale
Concurring Opinions

"John G. Culhane edits a series of critical chapters that take on some of the most polarizing and politically-defining societal problems in modern America -- abortion and other reproductive rights, euthanasia..., gay marriage, domestic violence, rights to carry guns, and spiraling tort litigation...."

The authors "develop traditional and original thinking surrounding public health impacts and evidence, applying it to complex issues where the health of populations is considered remotely, inaccurately, or not at all. The results can be powerful."

"There is considerable upside and ingenuity in the authors' attempts to recast these issues toward a communal perspective. Their goal of opening our collective minds to the need for public health parlance among some of the most sensitive issues of law and policy is laudable, responsible, and largely achieved."

- James G. Hodge, Jr.
Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics

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