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Vaccine. 1999 Oct 29;17 Suppl 3:S14-7.

Individual rights versus societal duties.

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Rijksuniversiteit Gent, Huis van Oostenrijk, Wetteren, Belgium.


In 'bioethics', the rights to self-determination and to informed consent of the patient are prerequisites to every medical decision: paternalism is no longer a justifiable attitude. Hence, it seems that compulsory vaccination is an unacceptable praxis. Even John Stuart Mill. however, took into account other values: e.g. the duty not to harm others. This article is dedicated to the analysis of the historical development of these values and to their relevance for the ethics of vaccination. The acceptability of coercion is upheld, but no clear-cut answers are given in general: in every case the pros and cons of coercion are to be weighed carefully against each other.

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