Lethal Injections: The Law, Science and Politics of Syringe Access for Injection Drug Users

73 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2003

See all articles by Scott Burris

Scott Burris

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Steffanie A. Strathdee

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health

Jon S. Vernick

Johns Hopkins University - Bloomberg School of Public Health

Abstract

Ensuring that injection drug users who cannot or will not stop injecting have access to sterile syringes is an important part of a comprehensive approach to reducing the transmission of viral and bacterial infections associated with injection drug use. Despite its public health value, however, syringe access has been politically controversial in the United States. The primary policy questions have been the legality of over-the-counter sales of syringes to IDUs, the legality of syringe possession by IDUs, and the authority of public health officials or private sector providers to initiate access interventions. This Article updates and significantly expands upon prior legal analyses of syringe access. The main focus is the body of law that regulates syringe sale, purchase, possession and disposal in the context of injection drug use in the United States, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, including drug paraphernalia laws; syringe prescription laws and regulations; pharmacy regulations and miscellaneous syringe laws; needle exchange laws and regulations; and drug possession laws. To place the law in context, the paper summarizes and critically assesses the public health research on the health effects of syringe access rules and the collateral effects of policies enhancing syringe access for IDUs; examines the public opinion poll results, and discuss the ethics and politics of syringe access reform. It concludes with key recommendations for public policy.

Suggested Citation

Burris, Scott C. and Strathdee, Steffanie A. and Vernick, Jon S., Lethal Injections: The Law, Science and Politics of Syringe Access for Injection Drug Users. University of San Francisco Law Review, Vol. 37, p. 813, 2003. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=477165

Scott C. Burris (Contact Author)

Center for Public Health Law Research, Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

1719 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States
215-204-6576 (Phone)
215-204-1185 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.phlr.org

Steffanie A. Strathdee

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Public Health ( email )

La Jolla, CA
United States

Jon S. Vernick

Johns Hopkins University - Bloomberg School of Public Health ( email )

624 N. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
United States
410-955-7982 (Phone)
410-614-9055 (Fax)

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