Cops jump on swine-flu power: Shots heard ’round the world

Posted: September 3rd, 2009 by Militant Libertarian

by Chelsea Schilling


A “pandemic response bill” currently making its way through the Massachusetts state legislature would allow authorities to forcefully quarantine citizens in the event of a health emergency, compel health providers to vaccinate citizens, authorize forceful entry into private dwellings and destruction of citizen property and impose fines on citizens for noncompliance.

If citizens refuse to comply with isolation or quarantine orders in the event of a health emergency, they may be imprisoned for up to 30 days and fined $1,000 per day that the violation continues.

Massachusetts’ pandemic response bill

“Pandemic Response Bill” 2028 was passed by the Massachusetts state Senate on April 28 and is now awaiting approval in the House.

As stated in the bill, upon declaration by the governor that an emergency exists that is considered detrimental to public health or upon declaration of a state of emergency, a local public health authority, with approval of the commissioner, may exercise the following authorities (emphasis added):

to require the owner or occupier of premises to permit entry into and investigation of the premises;
to close, direct, and compel the evacuation of, or to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated any building or facility, and to allow the reopening of the building or facility when the danger has ended;
to decontaminate or cause to be decontaminated, or to destroy any material;
to restrict or prohibit assemblages of persons;
to require a health care facility to provide services or the use of its facility, or to transfer the management and supervision of the health care facility to the department or to a local public health authority;
to control ingress to and egress from any stricken or threatened public area, and the movement of persons and materials within the area;
to adopt and enforce measures to provide for the safe disposal of infectious waste and human remains, provided that religious, cultural, family, and individual beliefs of the deceased person shall be followed to the extent possible when disposing of human remains, whenever that may be done without endangering the public health;
to procure, take immediate possession from any source, store, or distribute any anti-toxins, serums, vaccines, immunizing agents, antibiotics, and other pharmaceutical agents or medical supplies located within the commonwealth as may be necessary to respond to the emergency;
to require in-state health care providers to assist in the performance of vaccination, treatment, examination, or testing of any individual as a condition of licensure, authorization, or the ability to continue to function as a health care provider in the commonwealth;
to waive the commonwealth’s licensing requirements for health care professionals with a valid license from another state in the United States or whose professional training would otherwise qualify them for an appropriate professional license in the commonwealth;
to allow for the dispensing of controlled substance by appropriate personnel consistent with federal statutes as necessary for the prevention or treatment of illness;
to authorize the chief medical examiner to appoint and prescribe the duties of such emergency assistant medical examiners as may be required for the proper performance of the duties of office;
to collect specimens and perform tests on any animal, living or deceased;
to exercise authority under sections 95 and 96 of chapter 111;
to care for any emerging mental health or crisis counseling needs that individuals may exhibit, with the consent of the individuals
State and local agencies responding to the public health emergency would be required to exercise their powers over transportation routes, communication devices, carriers, public utilities, fuels, food, clothing and shelter, according to the legislation.

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Local public health authorities will be required to keep records of reports containing the name and location of all people who have been reported, their disease, injury, or health condition and the name of the person reporting the case. In addition, citizens may be subject to “involuntary transportation.”

Line 341 of the bill states, “Law enforcement authorities, upon order of the commissioner or his agent or at the request of a local public health authority pursuant to such order, shall assist emergency medical technicians or other appropriate medical personnel in the involuntary transportation of such person to the tuberculosis treatment center. No law enforcement authority or medical personnel shall be held criminally or civilly liable as a result of an act or omission carried out in good faith in reliance on said order.”

Vaccinate or isolate

Whenever the commissioner or a public-health authority decides it is necessary to prevent a serious danger to the public health, they are authorized:

(1) to vaccinate or provide precautionary prophylaxis (preventative procedure) to individuals as protection against communicable disease and to prevent the spread of communicable or possible communicable disease, provided that any vaccine to be administered must not be such as is reasonably likely to lead to serious harm to the affected individual; and
(2) to treat individuals exposed to or infected with disease, provided that treatment must not be such as is reasonably likely to lead to serious harm to the affected individual. An individual who is unable or unwilling to submit to vaccination or treatment shall not be required to submit to such procedures but may be isolated or quarantined … if his or her refusal poses a serious danger to public health or results in uncertainty whether he or she has been exposed to or is infected with a disease or condition that poses a serious danger to public health, as determined by the commissioner, or a local public health authority operating within its jurisdiction. (emphasis added)

Under such circumstances, authorities are also allowed to decontaminate individuals and perform physical examinations, tests and specimen collection to determine whether “an individual presents a risk to public health.” If a citizen refuses, he or she may be isolated, quarantined and/or detained “for as long as may be reasonably necessary,” the bill states.

Law enforcement authorities are authorized to “arrest without warrant any person whom the officer has probable cause to believe has violated an order for isolation or quarantine and shall use reasonable diligence to enforce such order. Any person who knowingly violates an order for isolation or quarantine shall be punished by imprisonment of not more than 30 days and may be subject to a civil fine of not more than $1,000 per day that the violation continues.” (emphasis added)

Read more at this link.

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