The extent of government intervention in the public health system and individual freedoms during the Covid-19 pandemic: a theoretical analysis

Vahid Moazzen, Ehsan Shamsi Gooshki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The concept of individual freedom has complex and multifaceted dimensions that significantly affect the limits of permissible government interventions aimed at restricting such freedoms and maintaining public health. Therefore, the boundary between individual freedom and the social obligations of the government must be carefully clarified. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for such clarifications clearly increased. This study intended to investigate the concept of freedom according to major theories and to observe their application in analyzing the relations between individuals and the government in the health system, particularly during public health emergencies. The findings revealed that “justice-based”, “development-based” and “accountability-based” conceptions of freedom provide a more appropriate rationale for implementation of public health restrictive measures by health authorities during infectious disease outbreaks including pandemics such as COVID-19.Even in minimal governments that are built upon a free-market system and unrestricted conception of individuals’ freedom, such public health interventions are justifiable in the light of the ‘Catastrophic Moral Horror’ where there is an extreme risk to the health of citizens.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics and History of Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Covid-19
  • Government intervention
  • Individual freedom
  • Public health measures

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