Rate cards, free speech, and public health.

A friend of mine in the US alerted me to this fascinating debate he came across on Salon on the right to advertise this nonsense (I’m pinning my colours to the mast and saying that the science against vaccines is bad to awful: the BMJ has some excellent work in this area, and learned from its own mistakes on the Wakefield case).

The question of self-regulation of advertising content is a valuable one.  Vaccination works on the principle of herd immunity: unless a very high level of the population is vaccinated, the health of all is compromised. This would be the principle of the common good. The principles of privacy, family primacy, and bodily integrity,enshrined in the western constitutional tradition, also mean that parents have certain ‘inalienable rights’ regarding their children’s healthcare. Herd immunity clashes on a first principles basis with these inalienable rights. Something has to give.

Self-regulation and fear of negative publicity would arguably prevent ad agencies and media suppliers from placing an ad like the one above. I think and hope that it would. America has an entrenched legacy of debating the moral philosophy of free speech and the concept of the common good; Ireland does not. However, what this results in is the fact that in the US,  such dangerous misrepresentations of science end up being advertised, whereas they’d be stonewalled in Ireland. For once, lack of debate might actually be healthy.


One Response to “Rate cards, free speech, and public health.”
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  1. […] Ken’s post below on America’s penchant for inappropriate health advertising brought Jenny McCarthy’s insane and clearly ill-informed crusade against the MMR vaccine hurling to the fore and got me thinking about how receptive the public are to celebrity endorsements. Shampoo, jeans, bags, and now the welfare of their children are the big life decisions being dictated by C-list celebrities and Jim Carrey’s ex-girlfriend. […]

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