Antimicrobial Footprints, Fairness, and Collective Harm

In Euzebiusz Jamrozik & Michael Selgelid (eds.), Ethics and Drug Resistance: Collective Responsibility for Global Public Health. Springer. pp. 379-389 (2020)
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Abstract
This chapter explores the question of whether or not individual agents are under a moral obligation to reduce their ‘antimicrobial footprint’. An agent’s antimicrobial footprint measures the extent to which her actions are causally linked to the use of antibiotics. As such, it is not necessarily a measure of her contribution to antimicrobial resistance. Talking about people’s antimicrobial footprint in a way we talk about our carbon footprint may be helpful for drawing attention to the global effects of individual behaviour and for highlighting that our choices can collectively make a real difference. But can we be morally obligated to make a contribution to resolving a collective action problem when our individual contributions by themselves make no discernible difference? I will focus on two lines of argument in favour of such obligations: whether a failure to reduce one’s antimicrobial footprint is unfair and whether it constitutes wrongdoing because it is harmful. I conclude by suggesting that the argument from collective harm is ultimately more successful.
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First archival date: 2020-08-25
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