Publication Details

Braunack-Mayer, A. (2006). What makes a screening program ethical?. Public Health Bulletin South Australia, 5 7-9.


Ethics, as a discipline, asks "is this decision, situation, program or policy good? Under what circumstances is it good? Why?". This paper applies these questions to screening: "Is screening good? Under what circumstances is it good? Why is it good?". Of course, the answer to these questions depends on how one defines "good". A consequentialist, for instance, will suggest that a screening program is good when it prevents or, at least, reduces harm and suffering1 whereas non-consequentialists are likely to take a rather different approach. In this short paper, I have room only to skate across the surface of these arguments. I will suggest that there are at least two, rather different, sets of responses to the questions above and I will investigate the detail of two of these. The first response states that screening programs are good when they prevent harm and suffering; the second suggests that screening programs are worthwhile because they enhance autonomous decision making.