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MSEHPA - Why Government and Medicine Shouldn't Mix by Sandy Gottstein

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In spite of the fact that the United States does its utmost to avoid enemy war-time civilian casualties, the government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under the auspices of the Center for Law and the Public Health, founded "with generous support" from the CDC, has embarked on a plan to sacrifice some of our own civilians to its idea of "the common good".  Dubiously entitled the "Model State Emergency Health Powers Act", and now in its second draft, this proposed act, already being submitted in a number of states, would give the power of life and death over citizens to each state's governor.    

Taking advantage of current widespread fear of bioterrorism, the following are a few of the things the act would do, if adopted in it's entirety:

1.  Grant the governor of each state power to declare a "public health emergency" as defined in the act, with or without consulting anyone. (Article IV, Section 401)

2.  Require medical examination and/or testing and force isolation or quarantine if it is deemed that refusal "poses a danger to public health".  (Article VI, Section 602(c))

3.  Require treatment and/or vaccination and "isolate or quarantine" those "unwilling or unable" to do so.  (Article VI, (Article VI, Sections 603(a)(3) and 603(b)(3))

4.  Constitute as a misdemeanor, "failure to obey these provisions" (for examination, testing, isolation or quarantine).  (Article VI, Sections 604(a) and 604(c))

5.  Provide that there be no liability for any "State or local official" causing harm to individuals in their efforts to comply with the provisions of the act, unless there is "gross negligence or willful misconduct". (Article VIII, Section 804(a))

6.  Provide for similar absence of liability for "any private person, firm or corporation" and their "employees" or "agents".  (Article VIII, Section 804(b)(2) and 804(b)(3))

7.  Allow for the destruction of property without compensation if  "there is reasonable cause to believe that they may endanger the public health pursuant to Section 501". (Article V, Sections 506 and 507) - (Note: "they" refers to the properties described in the act.)

8.  Limit legal recourse.  (Article VI, Section 605)

9.  Allow for "the public safety authority (to) request assistance from the organized militia in enforcing the orders of the public health authority."  (Article IV, Section 404)

As George Annas, chairman of the Health Law Department at the Boston University School of Public Health said,  "This law treats American citizens as if they are the enemy".

Why is all this being urged when serious concerns have been raised about the currently available vaccines, smallpox and anthrax;  why is this being done, given that smallpox vaccine can be administered as many as a few days post-exposure (with smallpox not being contagious until there are obvious signs of infection), and with anthrax treatable with antibiotics if caught early enough?

Why is all this being urged when for many of the other potential threats there is no current treatment and/or vaccine, meaning development would have to be "fast-tracked" and consequently more risky; or effective treatments exist (e.g., antibiotics against plague and tularemia, and anti-toxin for botulism) for those specific people who have been exposed? 

Why is all this being urged in spite of the fact that Dr. Henderson, head of the Global Smallpox Eradiation Program, which ended in 1980, has stated publicly that no one should ever be forced to be vaccinated?

Why is all this unabashedly being urged when there are authoritative arguments against quarantine?  

Why is all this being urged making no distinction between whether an agent is contagious or merely infectious and may or may not be "transmissible from person to person, animal to person, or insect to person"?

Why is all this being urged when vaccines that work protect those who choose their protection?

Perhaps the most hideous aspect of this, however, is the notion that some will have to be sacrificed for the so-called common good.  Who decides what comprises the "common good"?  How many will be sacrificed?  Just, what, exactly, is the right number?  And why such cocksureness about what constitutes good medical care or advice, given a multitude of medical fiascos, both past and present?

So many in this great nation have fought and died to preserve our freedom from tyranny.  What would they think of this home-grown version of it?  For what did they fight and die, if not to prevent this very kind of thing?

Sandy Gottstein

Date: 2-8-2002