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Book and Media Reviews
April 2, 2008

Public Health & Human Rights: Evidence-Based Approaches

JAMA. 2008;299(13):1609-1610. doi:10.1001/jama.299.13.1609

Human rights and international law have been significant issues in moral and political philosophy since 1795, when Immanuel Kant published “Toward Perpetual Peace.” At about the same time, however, the ethics of medicine and public health began to be segregated from mainstream moral and political philosophy. In each subsequent generation, a few physicians publicly deplored widespread sickness and death as a result of war, political turmoil, or famine. In the mid-19th century, for example, Rudolf Virchow, a Prussian pathologist and politician, investigated and proposed policy to relieve the suffering of weavers in the disputed multiethnic region of Silesia. Virchow insisted that physicians should be “attorneys for the poor.” A group of US and Soviet physicians received the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting the control of nuclear arms.