Public Health Disasters: A Global Ethical Framework

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2017


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Health Care Ethics


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Henk ten Have

Committee Member

Gerard Magill

Committee Member

Joris Gielen


Disasters, Drug-resistant Tuberculosis, Ebola, Global bioethics, Pandemic influenza, Public health


This doctoral dissertation describes the uncharted conceptual, ethical and pragmatic intersections between public health ethics and the emerging discourse on disaster bioethics as public health disasters. This concept reflects public health issues with calamitous or devastating social consequences such as infectious disease outbreaks, the attendant public health impacts of natural or man-made disasters, and currently latent or low prevalence public health issues with the potential to rapidly acquire pandemic capacities. Using Ebola and pandemic influenza outbreaks, atypical drug-resistant tuberculosis and earthquakes as focal points, the dissertation argues that these issues are a type of global problems that will engender significant harm in the absence of cross-border and trans-national cooperation. Therefore, they require a global bioethical approach. To this end, the dissertation employs context-specific moral lenses to engage each of these representative problems. It thereafter uses the common threads, moral quandaries and the relational nexus around the overlapping issues to frame a global ethic as a normative lens for engaging public health disasters. The moral justification of the global ethic, it is argued, lies in its responsiveness to local, global, microbial and metaphysical realities as well as responsiveness to scientific concerns. Ultimately, the dissertation charts some of the roles that relevant local and transnational stakeholders may play in translating the global ethical framework from the sphere of concept to the arena of action.

A revised version of this dissertation has been published as a book and is available from Springer International Publishing.





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