Bioterrorism Law and Policy

Center Co-Hosts Summitt on Legal and Ethical Issues on the Frontlines of Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response

On June 29, 2006, the Center co-hosted a leadership summit in Washington, DC, on legal and ethical issues on the public health emergency preparedness and response along with the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness and the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute. The meeting brought together leaders and emerging thinkers in public health law, ethics, and preparedness. Participants engaged in discussions and exercises to generate a collection of best-practice guidelines for decision makers in response to legal and ethical challenges that may arise during a public health emergency. Center Executive Director, James G. Hodge, Jr., J.D., LL.M., presented on "Legal Perspectives in Real-Time: The Changing Legal Environment During Emergencies,” and helped moderate a discussion of core legal and ethical principles and priorities.

Participants drew on their expertises in law, public health, and ethics to identify and apply legal and ethical considerations to case scenarios. The objective was to simulate decision-making in real time and determine how specific principles would guide a response to a local event. Other Center participants included Lance Gable, J.D., M.P.H., Scholar, Benjamin Berkman, J.D., M.P.H., Fellow, and Dru Bhattacharya, J.D., M.P.H., Senior Researcher.

The objective of the Summit was to generate a list of legal and ethical principles on the allocation of scarce resources during public health emergencies. This document, entitled Principles of Law and Ethics to Guide Allocation Decisions Involving Scarce Resources During Public Health Emergencies, is now available as a resource for public health practitioners and community planners.

Center Comments on CDC's Proposed Federal Quarantine Regulations

Lawrence O. Gostin, Benjamin E. Berkman, and David P. Fidler of the Center for Law and the Public’s Health have prepared expert commentary concerning CDC’s proposed federal quarantine regulations, Control of Communicable Diseases (42 CFR Parts 70 and 71). The Center commends CDC's effort to strengthen and modernize one of the essential tools of public health law that may be needed in response to national public health emergencies. However, CDC’s proposed regulations also raise concerns about government accountability, personal liberty, individual due process, health information privacy, and consistency with international health regulations. In addressing these issues, the Center’s comments, also available on CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine web site, argue that while the government must possess the ability to conduct surveillance, case contact investigations, and issue orders for isolation or quarantine, such power must be carefully limited based on a careful balance between individual and communal interests, and the relationship between domestic and international law.

Checklists on Legal Preparedness for Public Health Emergencies

Together with colleagues at CDC's Public Health Law Program [PHLP], the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials [ASTHO], and the National Association of City and County Health Officials [NACCHO], the Center has developed checklists [as of December, 2004] on three major topics as follows:

Interjurisdictional legal coordination for public health emergency preparedness

Local government public health emergency legal preparedness and response

Civil legal liability issues and public health emergencies

An informative, one-page Fact Sheet about these checklists is also available. These checklists are intended for voluntary use by county, city, state, and federal public health agencies in assessing their legal preparedness for public health emergencies. Each checklist includes opening commentary on the background, methods, organization, and suggested uses for each document, and features two principal sections: (1) A “Quick Reference,” that lists the checklist’s questions; and (2) the detailed checklist with an introduction and explanatory comments or suggestions provided for each question. Content is macro-organized according to the four phases of incident management addressed in the National Response Plan: Prevention, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery.

The Center welcomes information and feedback on the checklists and their application. For additional information, please contact the specific authors of each document (see Adobe links above); or James G. Hodge, Jr., J.D., LL.M., Executive Director, Center for Law and the Public’s Health (


Bioterrorism Legal Workshop

On December 11, 2002, CDC's PHLP, ASTHO, and NACCHO sponsored a workshop on selected legal and policy issues related to public health legal preparedness for bioterrorism. The Center hosted this event at Georgetown University Law Center.

The workshop was designed for peer-to-peer consultation and technical assistance on issues central to the legal preparedness of the Nation's public health system for bioterrorism and emerging disease threats. A primary goal was to generate and exchange information that states, localities, tribes, and territories can use to address the legal preparedness goals of the CDC grant program for public health preparedness and response for bioterrorism.

Consistent with the Workshop Summary, Center personnel and other colleagues provided below some informative, follow-up information as referenced below:

Informative memos prepared by Center colleagues:
  Bioterrorism Surveillance Under HIPAA's Public Health Exception

Proprietary Uses of Reporting Data

  Governmental Liability for Non-recipient Harms

  Overview of Federal and State Quarantine Authority

  State FOIA Exemptions to Combat Terrorism

Model documents requested by workshop participants:


  Memorandum of Understanding for the Establishment of Local Public Health Mutual Aid and Assistance System - draft developed by Judy Munson, CDC, and Anne Murphy, Chief Counsel, Illinois Department of Health

  American Bar Association's Checklist for State or Local Government Attorneys to Prepare for Possible Disasters (prepared by Ernie Abbott, et al.)