Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Am J Public Health. 2012 Jan;102(1):38-44. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2011.300297. Epub 2011 Nov 28.

Ethical justification for conducting public health surveillance without patient consent.

Author information

  • 1Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.


Public health surveillance by necessity occurs without explicit patient consent. There is strong legal and scientific support for maintaining name-based reporting of infectious diseases and other types of public health surveillance. We present conditions under which surveillance without explicit patient consent is ethically justifiable using principles of contemporary clinical and public health ethics. Overriding individual autonomy must be justified in terms of the obligation of public health to improve population health, reduce inequities, attend to the health of vulnerable and systematically disadvantaged persons, and prevent harm. In addition, data elements collected without consent must represent the minimal necessary interference, lead to effective public health action, and be maintained securely.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center