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Courts play a key role in deciding on public health controversies, but the legitimacy of judicial intervention remains highly controversial. In this article I suggest that we need to carefully distinguish between different reasons for persistent disagreement in the domain of public health. Adjudicating between public health controversies rooted in factual disagreements allows us to investigate more closely the epistemic capacities of the judicial process. While the critics typically point out the lack of appropriate expertise of judgesin particular with respect to health and public healthwe should not move too fast in inferring from this a generalized competence problem. This article offers four reasons for vindicating the importance of judicial intervention in factual disagreements: the relative independence of judges from the political establishment, the judicial commitment to evidence, the specific nature of judicial reasoning and an additional voice for the people in the policy-making process.
Public Health Ethics – Oxford University Press
Published: Jul 6, 2015
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