Tags: Model | State | Bioterror | Law | Stirs | Controversy

Model State Bioterror Law Stirs Controversy

Wednesday, 02 January 2002 12:00 AM

Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University, wrote the draft bill, a blueprint for future state legislation, with grant money from the National Institutes of Health.

Although no state has yet enacted legislation based on the model, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a bipartisan group of state legislators, has warned the plan would intrude on Americans' civil liberties.

Meanwhile, Citizens’ Council on Health Care (CCHC), a Minnesota-based health lobby, is concerned that the proposal would provide intrusive authority for purposes far beyond bioterrorism.

But Gostin recently defended his draft bill. "The idea that we need it is very clear,” he maintained, adding that when the next bioterror shoe drops, the states would be unprepared to counter the threat "without being able to plan, to conduct surveillance, to treat, to test, to vaccinate people, or if necessary, even to confiscate pharmaceuticals or vaccines.”

"Some states have far too few powers,” Gostin explained. "Anybody who thinks we can fight a 21st century battle against bioterrorism with early 20th century legislation really just doesn’t understand the sorry state of public health law in America.”

But critics of the draft law such as CCHC and ALEC find fault with what they describe as its overbroad language. Jennifer King, a legislative expert with ALEC, pointed to the following language as troublesome:

Gostin counters by insisting: "The prime responsibility of government should include a very careful attention to the health, safety and security of the population …. [I] have bent over backwards in writing the law to make sure that there was very careful attention to due process and checks and balances.”

But Gostin’s assertions have not mollified the critics, such as CCHC, which insists that due process could be trampled in the following examples:

But Gostin is quick to say: "This is not anything to do with military tribunals or anything like that – there’s a lot of due process. So, for those who say that there’s not enough civil liberties in it, I think the only thing I could say is that for most of the provisions, the civil liberties protections are far greater than that which exists under current law.”

Some states, including Minnesota, are already considering enactment in 2002. The Illinois state legislature recently rejected a proposed bill modeled after Gostin’s MEHPA.

Gostin forecasted that his model legislation would be considered in "virtually every state” when the new state legislative sessions begins this month.

He said his model was designed to be adapted by the states as needed, to update their statutes. The proposal is not intended to be one-size-fits-all, he added.

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Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University and professor of public health at Johns Hopkins University, wrote the draft bill, a blueprint for future state legislation, with grant money from the National Institutes of Health. Although no state has yet...
Model,State,Bioterror,Law,Stirs,Controversy
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2002-00-02
Wednesday, 02 January 2002 12:00 AM
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