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Law, Policy and Ethics Memo

Identify what is meant by law, policy and ethics
Laws are “rules of conduct that protect everyone’s rights,” they govern society and the actions of individuals (“What is the Law”, 2017). Laws apply to everyone equally, and if they are not followed, those responsible for breaking the law can be prosecuted in court, and their actions may be provisions for punishment (“What is the Law”, 2017). Law is governed by the Government to help “ensure a safe and peaceful society” (“What is the Law”, 2017). It can be divided into two categories, public and private law (“What is the Law”, 2017). Public law is the set of “rules for the relationship between the individual and society” while private law “sets the rules between individuals,” also known as civil law (“What is the Law”, 2017).

Policies are meant to achieve a specific goal or outcome, they are “actions of the state addressed to governance, regulation and organization for the public good” (Bickenbach, 2012). They can regulate what is done within organizations and encompass rules and guidelines that are intended to bring an organization or government initiative to specific ends (Bickenbach, 2012, Torjman, 2005). Policy outlines what a government wants to achieve and the principles it will use to reach its goals (“The Policy and Law Making Process”, n.d.). Moreover, a policy document can identify new laws that are needed to accomplish an organization’s goals (“The Policy and Law Making Process”, n.d.). Policy sets out the objectives and activities which may be necessary to pass a law and allow the Government to put in place the appropriate institutional and legal frameworks to achieve their aim (“The Policy and Law Making Process”, n.d.).

The word ethics comes from the Greek word “ethos” which means “way of living” (“What is ethics?”, 2015). Ethics can help guide a person or society, it helps decide what is good or bad, right or wrong in a situation (“Ethics: a general introduction”, 2014). Ethics reflects on an individual’s behaviour or conduct and helps an individual live a good life, by applying the moral rules and guidelines (“Ethics: a general introduction”, 2014). It is a branch of moral philosophy that guides people about the basic human conduct (“Ethics: a general introduction”, 2014). Ethics is concerned with “human independence” and is the involved in decision making and the “objective analysis of facts” (“What is ethics?”, 2015).

Differentiate between the three concepts
When differentiating between law and ethics, the law is what a person must do and while ethics is what a person should do. Law is universally accepted while ethics is ideal human demeanour, agreed upon by most individuals (Horner, 2003). Both law and ethics are made in association so that they do not contradict each other, they go side by side as they guide how individuals should act in a particular manner (Horner, 2003). The law does not tell one what to do with regards to decision making, that this is where ethics comes into place. Actions that are legal may be considered unacceptable, in comparison, actions may be regarded as right but may not be legal. Doing something that is not illegal, is not always the same thing as doing what is right (MacDonald, 2011). Ethics engages our thinking and feeling and provides us with guidelines on what the correct thing to do is in all perspectives of life, while the law provides more specific rules for societies (“Ethics: a general introduction”, 2014). Laws are made with ethics as a guiding principle, however, ethics does not carry any punishment to anyone who violates it (Perez, 2018). Laws are rules developed by governments to provide balance in society and protection of its citizens (“What is the Law”, 2017). Ethics comes from people’s awareness of what is right and wrong while laws are enforced by governments to its people.

Policies pursued by the Government may not always be ethical but should be based on ethics (Rivlin, 2018). Ethics is much broader in its application than policy (Rivlin, 2018). Law and policy outline overall guidelines and terms meant to secure general safety and wellbeing, although law places limits on what public policy can do (Schulte et al., 2015). Policy makers need to deal with complex legal, social and ethical concerns that arise in conjunction with potential public health initiatives (Bickenback, 2012). Policy is complicated as it is created and governed by law and is implicitly shaped by ethics (Bickenback, 2012).

Explain how each is relevant for public health
Public health professionals have a responsibility to “assure the conditions in which people can be healthy” which can be achieved through the law, policy and ethics (“What is Public Health”, 2018). Law, policy and ethics can be powerful agents for change in society (“LLM with a Concentration in Health Law, Ethics and Policy, 2015. Laws can advance important health policy goals (“Health policy”, 2018). Laws, regulations and public policies are put in place to protect the public’s health safety (“LLM with a Concentration in Health Law, Ethics and Policy, 2015).

It is essential that public health professionals recognize the extent of wide-ranging statutory and regulatory approaches and the important position of ethics in public health. Ethics is relevant for public health as ethical considerations should be incorporated into decision-making surrounding public health issues (WHO, 2008). Ethical standards promote values that are essential to collaborative work, and are therefore relevant to public health, including trust, accountability, mutual respect and fairness (WHO, 2008). Ensuring and protecting the health of the public is moral, and public health ethics involves the responsibility to attend to the well-being of societies (“LLM with a Concentration in Health Law, Ethics and Policy, 2015). Public health is often delivered by the government to a population (“LLM with a Concentration in Health Law, Ethics and Policy, 2015). The “Principles of the Ethical Practice of Public Health” include 12 ethical principles that are essential in public health research (Thomas, Sage, Dillenberg, Guillory, 2002).

Public health policy is an essential component of public health. Public health policy helps build public health capacity and improve the health of the population (“Collaborative Specialization in Public Health Policy”, 2009). Public health policies aim to address society’s pressing and emerging public health priorities. It includes “a wide array of legislative and regulatory interventions, administrative practices, financing and funding decisions, and various forms of soft law operating at all levels of government, affecting multiple settings, jurisdictions and sectors of activity” (“Collaborative Specialization in Public Health Policy”, 2009). According to the World Health Organization, health policy can achieve several things including a vision for the future, outline priorities and expected roles of different groups, and build consensus and inform people (“Health policy”, 2018).

Society has an interest in promoting health, and legal approaches are necessary to advance human well-being by promoting peoples’ health and remediating health inequities (“What is Public Health”, 2018). Some topics in public health law illustrate the state’s duty to protect the public’s health, for example, food labelling, access to safe injection sites, access to health care services for marginalized communities, motor vehicle safety, tobacco control, exposure to environmental hazards and emergency preparedness among many others.

Legal and other governing measures can both help and limit the pursuit of agendas in public health (Coggon, Syrett, Viens, 2016). Having an understanding of public health ethics and law is essential to a full understanding of public health (Coggon, Syrett, Viens, 2016). Public health ethics is concerned with establishing how we might go about demonstrating why specific public health policies should, or should not, be in place or would be justified, or not, in using particular public health measures to advance these policies (Wilson, 2009). Public health ethics leads directly to public health practice and public health law in establishing what should or should not be done in the name of the health of the public (Wilson, 2009).

Identify what you think are the key considerations that municipal governments should consider when considering using the law and any limitations on municipalities
By-laws are enacted by municipalities, a form of local government, however, municipalities are subject to provincial legislation (Plunkett, 2006). By-laws follow a governmental process and have the potential to influence entire communities and are intended to satisfy the needs and resolve the problems for citizens, they are deemed a specific type of public health policy (Municipal by-law development and public health: a primer, 2014). When society senses the need to promote and preserve welfare and when there is “no relevant provincial or federal legislation in place or when the municipality wants to strengthen existing legislation” by-laws are created (Municipal by-law development and public health: a primer, 2014). An example of this is when Ontario passed local by-laws for smoke-free public places and workplaces before the Smoke-Free Ontario Act was passed (Municipal by-law development and public health: a primer, 2014). This example demonstrates that by-laws are an essential part of public health. The key considerations that municipal governments should consider when considering the law include the “jurisdictional situation that constrains the federal action at the municipal level” (“Municipal Issues”, 2004). Municipal governments were created by the provincial governments, and the “provincial governments do not want municipalities to deal directly with the federal government ” (“Municipal Issues”, 2004). Municipal governments receive their funding from property tax, user fees and transfers from other levels of government and as a result, there have been funding issues (“Municipal Issues”, 2004). All parts of municipal government, business and the community play a vital role in enabling and supporting positive health outcomes for everyone. However, municipal governments have “no constitutionally recognized existence but are creations of provincial legislation” (Plunkett, 2006). Federal plans that affect municipal governments are managed through the federal-provincial agreements, as the municipal government is not sanctioned by the Constitution (Plunkett, 2006). All by-laws passed by the municipal government are subject to change and controlled by the provincial government at any time, and as a result, they have limited power and create only local by-laws and are in charge of property tax (Plunkett, 2006).