Responsibility as an Obstacle to Good Policy: The Case of Lifestyle Related Disease

J Bioeth Inq. 2018 Sep;15(3):459-468. doi: 10.1007/s11673-018-9860-y. Epub 2018 Jun 6.

Abstract

There is a lively debate over who is to blame for the harms arising from unhealthy behaviours, like overeating and excessive drinking. In this paper, I argue that given how demanding the conditions required for moral responsibility actually are, we cannot be highly confident that anyone is ever morally responsible. I also adduce evidence that holding people responsible for their unhealthy behaviours has costs: it undermines public support for the measures that are likely to have the most impact on these harms. I claim that these two facts-the fact that we cannot be highly confident that anyone is morally responsible and the fact that holding people responsible for their unhealthy behaviours has costs-interact. Together they give us a powerful reason for believing, or acting as if we believed, that ordinary people are not in fact responsible for their unhealthy behaviours.

Keywords: Lifestyle disease; Obesity; Policy; Responsibility.

MeSH terms

  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Public Opinion
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Responsibility*