The question that lingers in many people’s mind as they tackle public health and other lifestyle related issues is who is responsible for the health of the public. Whether health is an individual matter or the prerogative of the government remains a matter of debate culminating into an ethical dilemma. A clear balance has to be struck between respect for one to make a personal decision and the opportunity for the government to provide its citizen with all forms of protection as stipulated and mandated in the constitution.
There is a particular school of thought being held by a section of the public that the government has the absolute right to stipulate and ensure that people live in specific or generally- acceptable lifestyles. It is argued that it is the responsibility of the government to provide basic services like clean air, water, and ensure proper sanitation is availed for the public. While doing this, it has to ensure that the public is aware of activities that may be potentially hazardous.
The government, it is argued, is better placed to make informed decisions for the benefit of the general population simply because it has vital information gained from its research undertakings. A classical example of such regulations is the restriction that cooking oil manufactures need to manufacture cholesterol-free oil. Such decisions are based on scientific facts. Other people are however strongly opposed to the government’s regulation of lifestyles. In bioethics, for instance, individual freedom is paramount.
Most government policies have however been found to infringe on the individual’s rights of freedom of choice. Similarly, these people believe that government decisions are broad and nonspecific and might not necessarily address pertinent issues of an individual since different people are faced with different issues. Despite the two differing opinions, it is imperative that the government gives guidelines on appropriate lifestyle practices, especially those that are likely to directly affect the health of the general population.
This is based on the fact that the government has trained professionals in different fields that are able to formulate progressive policies. The role of the government should however not infringe on fundamental human rights like the freed of choice. It is at this point the government is required to offer advisory rather than near dictatorial role in the lifestyles of the people.