Many public health ethics debates are construed as the rights of the collective versus the rights of the individual. This essay demonstrates that in the context of diseases which are transmitted by healthy carriers, the issue is more complex than this. Instead of arguing about competing rights, this essay argues that such debates are first about competing visions of reality, in which the individual is asked to substitute a collective understanding of their body for their own personal experience of their body. Understanding this first layer of the ethics debate in such healthy carrier situations allows us to redirect persuasive energies, moving away from a beginning-point of compliance to one of understanding, which may ultimately find a more willing public audience.

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