Bounded Justice and the Limits of Health Equity

Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics | 29 June 2021


Programs, policies, and technologies — particularly those concerned with health equity — are often designed with justice envisioned as the end goal. These policies or interventions, however, frequently fail to recognize how the beneficiaries have historically embodied the cumulative effects of marginalization, which undermines the effectiveness of the intended justice. These well-meaning attempts at justice are bounded by greater socio-historical constraints. Bounded justice suggests that it is impossible to attend to fairness, entitlement, and equity when the basic social and physical infrastructures underlying them have been eroded by racism and other historically entrenched isms. Using the case of Brazil’s National Health Policy for the Black Population, this paper proposes that bounded justice can contribute to justice discourses by serving as a concept, a proffering to a multi-disciplinary conceptual framework, and a potential analytic for those interested in the design of policy, technology, and programmatic interventions towards health equity.

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