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Soc Sci Med. 2001 Jun;52(11):1677-87.

The ethics of social risk reduction in the era of the biological brain.

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  • 1McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


In keeping with our transdisciplinary orientation, in this article we try to do several things at once. We address research on preventing mental illness and its relation to existing conceptions of public health, a topic to which insufficient attention has been paid in the era of the biological brain, while using this case study to illustrate the limits of conventional approaches in bioethics. After identifying the crucial need for methodological self-consciousness in prevention research and policy, we explore the implications as they relate to (i) the values embedded in the choice of research designs and strategies, and (ii) contrasting intellectual starting points regarding the biological plausibility of preventing mental illness. We then draw attention to the need for more thoughtful analysis of the appropriate role and limits of economics in making choices about prevention of mental illness.

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