modernizing public health emergency legislation specifically tailored O t h e r
Responses should be a minimum of 250 words and include direct questions. You may challenge, support or supplement another student’s answer using the terms, concepts and theories from the required readings. Also, do not be afraid to respectfully disagree where you feel appropriate; as this should be part of your analysis process at this academic level.
Please respond to Yehia:
The American public has long been shielded from public health outbreaks that often reared their head during the 18th-20th century. Specifically, smallpox, typhoid, and tuberculosis carried death sentences to those who contracted the disease and infected large portions of the community throughout the early days of the establishment of America as its’ own sovereign nation. However, with advances in medical knowledge and innovation, a greater ability to treat and prevent said diseases occurred and ultimately made the public desensitized to the threat of such outbreaks and thus some precautions fell to the side as these advances continued.
The Spanish influenza outbreak in 1918 killed more than 600,000 Americans. During the height, morgues overflowed and cities resorted to mass burials. Government officials closed schools and theaters, stores, bars, and finally even places of worship (Brownlee, 2001). With the sick and the healthy quarantined alike, the virus finally burned itself out. Furthermore, in the early twentieth century, those in charge had the ability to issue and enforce strict edicts on the types of behavior needed to combat plagues, being able to prohibit mass gatherings. The success of this campaign was due in part that Americans were more tolerant of civil liberty infringements for the greater good of society earlier in the history of the Republic. Outbreaks in some form were fairly commonplace and austere measures were understood as a necessary remedy to the unfortunate situation.
Today, U.S. citizens are more wary of government, and federal health officials have lost much of the authority that they once held. Despite this diminishing influence, a bio-terrorism bill was passed in 2002 by the federal government—the Public Health Security and Bio-terrorism Preparedness and Response Act that relies on the ability of states to respond to public health emergencies (Annas, 2002). In addition, the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act provides a template for modernizing public health emergency legislation specifically tailored to current public health threats such as bio-terrorism (Mayer, 2009). The Model Act gives states the ability to declare a state of emergency based on a public health issue which then gives those in charge of public health the ability to order physicians to order citizens to submit to exams, undergo treatment and should they refuse, the ability to quarantine or charge them with a crime (Annas, 2002, p. 1338). Additionally, anyone working under this authority can not be held liable for any death or injury that may occur during these periods. What classifies such an emergency? According to this act, a public health emergency is defined as “an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition, caused by bio-terrorism, epidemic or pandemic disease, or novel and highly fatal infectious agent or biological toxin, that poses a substantial risk of a significant number of human fatalities or incidents of permanent or long-term disability” (Annas, 2002, p.1338).
The act readily acknowledges that some limitations on civil liberties may be necessary in an emergency. However, the authors set out to prevent infringement on civil liberties and to set a high bar for what can be deemed a public health emergency. The bill also emphasizes that the response will be handled by medical professionals employed by hospitals or private medical facilities. Therefore, public health personnel should oversee the process and be granted special powers to manage the situation as necessary. Unfortunately, the exigency of the situation described in the Model Act has become a catch all for all emergency management drawing the ire of both civil libertarians and emergency managers alike. Once for unnecessary or Draconian acts (forced vaccination or quarantine) and the other for taking the procedural authority from the medical professionals that will contend with the outbreak.
Annas, G. J. (2002). Bioterrorism, public health, and civil liberties. The New England Journal of Medicine, 346(17), 1337-1342. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/docview/223942008?accountid=8289
Brownlee, Shannon, 2001. Under Control. Retrieved from; https://newrepublic.com/article/92195/bioterrorism-epidemics-anthrax
Mayer, E. E. (2009). Prepare for the worst: Protecting civil liberties in the modern age of bioterrorism. Journal of Constitutional Law, 11(4), 1051-1076. Retrieved fromhttp://scholarship.law.upenn.edu/jcl/vol11/iss4/6
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