Friday, February 29, 2008

U.S. Pandemic preparedness: Health protection or civil liberties violation?

If there is a flu pandemic or other widespread outbreak of infectious disease in the United States, the federal government has plans ready to help contain the spread of disease and keep people safe.

The American Civil Liberties Union, however, says U.S. preparedness plans and laws rely too much on enforcement and security. In a January report, the group concludes that the U.S. plan of action might restrict people's civil liberties during a flu pandemic.

But some public health experts have another take. They say that while increased transparency, communication and community involvement in planning is still needed, such obstacles should not be reasons to abandon proven public health methods to stop the spread of disease.

APHA's Get Ready campaign recently invited experts on both sides of the issue to share their thoughts. Take a look at their commentaries, published online now and post your comments on the issue. What do you think? Is U.S. pandemic preparedness health protection — or civil liberties violation?

Read the guest commentaries now


Anonymous said...

I agree with the authors who raise doubts as to whether we have to choose between pandemic preparedness and civil liberties. In fact, to truly have the freedom to exercie civil liberties, one must be able to depend on a government and community response system that is well-prepared to react to order to protect the public's health while maintaining the highest level of civil liberties protection possible. If a well-planned response is coordinated with the greatest amount of community participation feasible, an acceptable balance will be struck to overcome the harsh realties of a public health emergency. The more prepared we are, the more coordinated and effective the response will be. And rather than serve to repress civil liberties, a well-coordinated response will serve to restore them to pre-emergency levels as quickly and safely as possible.

Adena said...

People are inherently selfish. Less than a year ago, Andrew Speaker traveled around the world with TB just so he could get married and go on his honeymoon. He knew he could infect people and was prohibited to fly back to the states, but he still did it. Obviously, we need the government to take control in these matters in order to protect the health and lives of others. When we leave public health matters to the discretion of individuals, we put everyone's safety at risk.