Legal Crises in Public Health
Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 2019 (Forthcoming)
9 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2019 Last revised: 30 Nov 2019
Date Written: September 12, 2019
Since the onset of modern legal conceptions of “public health emergencies” (PHEs) in 2001, government officials at all levels have demonstrated a propensity to declare PHEs in response to a multitude of scenarios (e.g., emerging infectious diseases, natural disasters, terrorism events). Many of these declarations are justified by the circumstances, others perhaps less so.
Yet, in addition to the rise of formal PHE declarations, officials, academics, media, and others are increasingly labeling multiple types of threats to human health. Pursuant to a “crisis du jour” mentality, Americans are deluged with an unending series of identified public health threats including diseases, conditions, acts, and behaviors.
Against this barrage of exigencies one might perceive that primary health hazards stem largely from rapidly escalating conditions or events. Perceptions, however, do not match reality. Significantly greater risks to health arise from long-standing, entrenched causes. Like climbing ivies, these threats creep along year after year posing substantial societal harms while eluding meaningful law and policy responses centered on assuring the public’s health.
Keywords: emergencies, crises, epidemics, classifications, declarations, public health
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