Paternalism and Its Discontents: Motorcycle Helmet Laws, Libertarian Values, and Public Health
Jones, Marian Moser
American Journal of Public Health 2007 February; 97(2): 208-217
The history of motorcycle helmet legislation in the United States reflects the extent to which concerns about individual liberties have shaped the public health debate. Despite overwhelming epidemiological evidence that motorcycle helmet laws reduce fatalities and serious injuries, only 20 states currently require all riders to wear helmets. During the past 3 decades, federal government efforts to push states toward enactment of universal helmet laws have faltered, and motorcyclists' advocacy groups have been successful at repealing state helmet laws. This history raises questions about the possibilities for articulating an ethics of public health that would call upon government to protect citizens from their own choices that result in needless morbidity and suffering.