Public Health Legal Preparedness: A Framework for Action

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 36 (s1):13-17 (2008)
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Abstract

Public health emergencies have occurred throughout history, encompassing such events as plagues and famines arising from natural causes, disease pandemics interrelated with wars, and industrial accidents such as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, among others. Law and legal tools have played an important role in addressing such emergencies. Three prime U.S. examples are Congressional authorization of quarantine as early as 1796, legally mandated smallpox vaccination upheld in a landmark 1905 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, and the President's 2003 executive order adding SARS to the federal government's list of “quarantinable communicable diseases.”The public health emergencies of the present — both actual and potential — pose equally serious threats but do so in the context of greatly magnified expectations that stem directly from the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the immediately following anthrax attacks.

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