Ethics and Public Health: How Public Health Reacts Ethically in a Disaster

Course Description:

The purpose of this course is to confront the student with some of “life’s persistent questions” within the context of the ethics of a disaster in order that the student may discover the answers from within himself and then be able to make appropriate decisions that will allow the student to go about “living outside herself.”

The course may be described as a study of the ethical principles that should be applied within the context of a disaster so that the student will be empowered to make correct and timely decisions within the disaster, balancing the concepts of doing the most good for the most people while employing a fair and equitable, yet compassionate process.

To accomplish this, the course exposes the student to the historical background for and genesis of ethical principles within society as a whole and within the various disciplines that practice their art under the rubric of “public health.”

The course then provides opportunities to visualize these ethical principles as they apply in real-life situations such as the devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, the havoc wreaked on Tuscaloosa by the tornado of April 27, 2011 and the ongoing multifaceted public health crises in the Sudan and Haiti.

Target Audience

Academic Faculty/Staff, Federal Government Employees, State Government Employees, Local Government Employees, Non-Government Employees and Students

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the “Five Action Points” which comprise the ethical underpinnings of this course
  • Apply the “Pareto Principle” to ethics
  • Distinguish the ethical principles taught by the Ancient Greeks, by the religious teachings of the great world religions, and by the cultural teachings enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution
  • Describe the various ethical principles upon which the public health disciplines are founded including public employee ethics
  • Conceptualize the ethical dilemmas confronted in an unfolding disaster
  • Explain how the underlying  truth of a disaster can best be approached in a “pre-learned” ethical manner
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 4.00 Participation/CE
    Tulane Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) awards 4.00 hour(s) of credit for completing Ethics and Public Health: How Public Health Reacts Ethically in a Disaster
Course opens: 
Course expires: 


John Wible
John R. Wible, JD

John R. Wible, Attorney IV, General Counsel, Alabama Department of Public Health (retired), 1988 to June 1, 2011.

Years of Service: Thirty-seven years professional service with Alabama Department of Public Health

Former Duties: Assistant Attorney General, having served six Attorneys General, five Governors, and four State Health Officers; Chief Legal Officer to Department; Advisor to State Health Officer, State Board of Health and state-level and county-level public health staff.

Areas of Practice and Expertise: Public health law, contract law and procedure, administrative law and procedure, statutory construction, civil rights Title VII and disability law, HIPAA law, emergency preparedness, disaster, emergency management and bioterrorism law and legal research. Consultant to CDC.

Education: 1965-1967. The Marion Military Institute, Marion, Alabama. University of Montevallo (BA, 1971), Alabama, University of Alabama (JD. 1974.)   

Lectures and Teaching: Taught numerous continuing education and continuing legal education courses on public health related matters within the State of Alabama, the Southeast Region and nationally.

Currently: After retirement, serves on the staff of  Gateway Baptist Church, Montgomery, being the principal and administrator of the church’s homeschool program, coordinates relationship with the Latino and Korean communities associated with the church, teaches senior adult Sunday School and ministers to senior adults, teaches English as Second Language to Korean community.

Serves with the Alabama Department of Public Health as volunteer Director of the Family Assistance Center, coordinating matters between families of mass casualty victims and the State Mortuary Operations Response Team, continues to serve as volunteer consultant to the Department’s Office of Emergency Preparedness.

Scheduled to serve as adjunct instructor in Public Health Law at the University of Alabama School of Law, Fall, 2012.

Available Credit

  • 4.00 Participation/CE
    Tulane Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) awards 4.00 hour(s) of credit for completing Ethics and Public Health: How Public Health Reacts Ethically in a Disaster


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Required Hardware/software

System Settings 
This course is designed to work most effectively if your computer and internet connection meet certain minimal requirements. This course can be accessed using a Windows 10 PC or a Mac with High Sierra1, Mojave, or Catalina. Pop-up blockers should be disabled when viewing the course. Internet Explorer 11 (for Windows 10), or the current version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari (for Windows 10 and or Mac) is required. Many of our courses require Java and JavaScript enabled. 

Links to External Websites   
Links to websites outside this course will open in a new window or tab. Some browsers may minimize the course window. If this occurs, maximize the course window to return to the course. 

Adobe Acrobat Reader (for desktops and laptops)  
Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to access some documents in this course. If you need to download a free copy of Acrobat Reader, click here.  

Internet Connection Speed 
A minimum download speed of 1.5 Mbps is recommended for an optimal experience, which is commonly the speed associated with a basic DSL or a cellular/satellite connection. A faster connection, such as cable or fiber service, with further enhance your online experience. A Wi-Fi connection is generally acceptable, but it is dependent upon one of the two services mentioned above. You can check your internet connection speed at