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Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary (2002)

Chapter: Appendix G: The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix G: The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act." Institute of Medicine. 2002. Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10290.
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Appendix G
The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act

as of December 21, 2001

a Draft for Discussion Prepared by:

The Center for Law and the Public’s Health at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities

For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]

to Assist:

National Governors Association [NGA],

National Conference of State Legislatures [NCSL],

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials [ASTHO], and

National Association of County and City Health Officials [NACCHO]

Contact Information:

Lawrence O. Gostin, J.D., LL.D. (Hon.), Professor and Director,

Center for Law and the Public’s Health, Georgetown University Law Center

600 New Jersey Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001

(202) 662-9373

gostin@law.georgetown.edu

Full text available at: www.publichealthlaw.net

Suggested Citation:"Appendix G: The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act." Institute of Medicine. 2002. Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10290.
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PREAMBLE

In the wake of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, our nation realizes that the government’s foremost responsibility is to protect the health, safety, and well being of its citizens. New and emerging dangers—including emergent and resurgent infectious diseases and incidents of civilian mass casualties—pose serious and immediate threats to the population. A renewed focus on the prevention, detection, management, and containment of public health emergencies is thus called for.

Emergency health threats, including those caused by bioterrorism and epidemics, require the exercise of essential government functions. Because each state is responsible for safeguarding the health, security, and well being of its people, state and local governments must be able to respond, rapidly and effectively, to public health emergencies. The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (the “Act”) therefore grants specific emergency powers to state governors and public health authorities.

The Act requires the development of a comprehensive plan to provide a coordinated, appropriate response in the event of a public health emergency. It facilitates the early detection of a health emergency by authorizing the reporting and collection of data and records, and allows for immediate investigation by granting access to individuals’ health information under specified circumstances. During a public health emergency, state and local officials are authorized to use and appropriate property as necessary for the care, treatment, and housing of patients, and to destroy contaminated facilities or materials. They are also empowered to provide care, testing and treatment, and vaccination to persons who are ill or who have been exposed to a contagious disease, and to separate affected individuals from the population at large to interrupt disease transmission.

At the same time, the Act recognizes that a state’s ability to respond to a public health emergency must respect the dignity and rights of persons. The exercise of emergency health powers is designed to promote the common good. Emergency powers must be grounded in a thorough scientific understanding of public health threats and disease transmission. Guided by principles of justice, state and local governments have a duty to act with fairness and tolerance towards individuals and groups. The Act thus provides that, in the event of the exercise of emergency powers, the civil rights, liberties, and needs of infected or exposed persons will be protected to the fullest extent possible consistent with the primary goal of controlling serious health threats.

Public health laws and our courts have traditionally balanced the common good with individual civil liberties. As Justice Harlan wrote in the seminal United States Supreme Court case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, “the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the ‘common good.’” The Act strikes such a balance. It provides state and local officials with the ability to prevent,

Suggested Citation:"Appendix G: The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act." Institute of Medicine. 2002. Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10290.
×

detect, manage, and contain emergency health threats without unduly interfering with civil rights and liberties. The Act seeks to ensures a strong, effective, and timely response to public health emergencies, while fostering respect for individuals from all groups and backgrounds.

Although modernizing public health law is an important part of protecting the population during public health emergencies, the public health system itself needs improvement. Preparing for a public health emergency requires a well-trained public health workforce, efficient data systems, and sufficient laboratory capacity.

Suggested Citation:"Appendix G: The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act." Institute of Medicine. 2002. Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10290.
×
Page 254
Suggested Citation:"Appendix G: The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act." Institute of Medicine. 2002. Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10290.
×
Page 255
Suggested Citation:"Appendix G: The Model State Emergency Health Powers Act." Institute of Medicine. 2002. Biological Threats and Terrorism: Assessing the Science and Response Capabilities: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/10290.
×
Page 256
Next: Appendix H: NACCHO Research Brief: Assessment of Local Bioterrorism and Emergency Preparedness »
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In the wake of September 11th and recent anthrax events, our nation’s bioterrorism response capability has become an imminent priority for policymakers, researchers, public health officials, academia, and the private sector. In a three-day workshop, convened by the Institute of Medicine’s Forum on Emerging Infections, experts from each of these communities came together to identify, clarify, and prioritize the next steps that need to be taken in order to prepare and strengthen bioterrorism response capabilities. From the discussions, it became clear that of utmost urgency is the need to cast the issue of a response in an appropriate framework in order to attract the attention of Congress and the public in order to garner sufficient and sustainable support for such initiatives. No matter how the issue is cast, numerous workshop participants agreed that there are many gaps in the public health infrastructure and countermeasure capabilities that must be prioritized and addressed in order to assure a rapid and effective response to another bioterrorist attack.

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