Bioterrorism and the Use of Fear in Public Health
Urban Lawyer, Vol. 34, p. 686, 2002
42 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 1, 2002
Since September 11, the public health system has been plagued by concerns that it is inadequate to manage a bioterrorism outbreak. The federal government has promised billions of dollars to fight bioterrorism; and most states have announced plans to develop their own homeland defense systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the promulgation of a Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (Act), which essentially presumes that state governments are powerless to manage public health emergencies.
This article examines the challenges that bioterrorism poses for today’s cities. The article first describes how bioterrorism fits into general public health issues. It then evaluates the state and federal powers available to manage bioterrorism incidents. Finally, the article proposes a practical alternative to ill-conceived strategies such as the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act. The authors conclude that while changes do need to be made in many state public health laws, the need for change is relatively minor. The public health system itself needs reorganization and adequate support, which will improve routine public health and better prepare the United States to manage a bioterrorism incident. More importantly, failings in the public health system result in the unnecessary loss of thousands of lives every year. These lives could be saved irrespective of whether the United States ever faces a major bioterrorism attack.
Keywords: public health, emergency powers, bioterrorism, police power, Model State Emergency Powers Act, MSEPA
JEL Classification: I18, H56
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation