Populations, Public Health, and the Law

Wendy E. Parmet

"A provocative, milestone contribution to the growing body of public health law scholarship."
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Law plays a crucial role in protecting the health of populations. Whether the public health threat is bioterrorism, pandemic influenza, obesity, or lung cancer, law is an essential tool for addressing the problem. Yet for many decades, courts and lawyers have frequently overlooked law’s critical importance to public health. Populations, Public Health, and the Law seeks to remedy that omission. The book demonstrates why public health protection is a vital objective for the law and presents a new population-based approach to legal analysis that can help law achieve its public health mission while remaining true to its own core values.

By looking at a diverse range of topics, including food safety, death and dying, and pandemic preparedness, Wendy E. Parmet shows how a population-based legal analysis that recalls the importance of populations and uses the tools of public health can enhance legal decision making while protecting both public health and the rights and liberties of individuals and their communities.

Table of Contents


1. Public Health and the Population Perspective

2. Public Health and American Law

3. Toward a Population-Based Legal Analysis: The Supreme Beef Case

4. Population Health and Federalism: Whose Job is It?

5. Individual Rights, Population Health, and Due Process

6. A Right to Die? Further Reflections on Due Process Rights

7. The First Amendment and the Obesity Epidemic

8. A Population-Based Health Law

9. Tort Law: A Population Approach to Private Law

10. Globalizing Population-Based Legal Analysis

11. The Future for Population–Based Legal Analysis

Table of U.S. Cases



"A provocative, milestone contribution to the growing body of public health law scholarship."—Journal of Legal Medicine

"Parmet offers a compelling, cohesive account of how lawmakers and policymakers view the role of law in protecting population health."—Hastings Center Report

"Parmet's bold and penetrating book is indispensable reading for anyone interested in understanding the relationship between law and public health. In demonstrating how public health practice has shaped legal doctrine while reminding readers of law's centrality to public health practice, Parmet's mastery of legal analysis is of fundamental importance to public health practitioners and policymakers. The book is an accessible history of public health and law that is a pleasure to read. Its extraordinary achievement is that the book will appeal equally to legal scholars and public health practitioners."—Peter Jacobson, JD, MPH, professor of health law and policy and director, Center for Law, Ethics, and Health, University of Michigan School of Public Health

"A vital book that brings public health law theory into the twenty-first century."—Scott Burris, James E. Beasley Professor of Law, Temple University


Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Wendy E. Parmet is George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law at Northeastern University and directs the law school’s dual degree JD–MPH program with Tufts University School of Medicine. She is a coauthor of Ethical Health Care.

304 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

Apr 2009

304 pp., 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN: 978-1-58901-261-5
Apr 2009

304 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-605-7
Apr 2009

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