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Center for Law and the Public’s Health


Whalen v. Roe
Hoping to curb the illicit use of prescription medication, New York State passed a statute requiring that copies of prescriptions for certain drugs be filed with the state. Although this information would held in a secure manner, many doctors and patients challenged the law on the multiple grounds, including that the statute violated the patients’ ‘zone of privacy’ and that it encroached upon the doctor-patient relationship.

  MMWR Summary of Notifiable Diseases
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) is published weekly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each issue contains feature articles on a particular public health problem in addition to charts logging the cumulative incidence of selected notifiable diseases. This link will take you to recent editions of these tables.

  CDC Guidelines for National HIV Case Surveillance
Diseases such as HIV/AIDS still carry stigma, and disclosure of infection status may have significant social, medical, and financial consequences. Yet public health surveillance often requires that new cases of HIV be reported to a public health authority for surveillance purposes. In this document, the CDC presents its guidelines for balancing the interests of patient and public health practitioner.

  HIPAA Regulations: Use of Information for
Public Health Purposes

In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Act governs a wide array of issues pertaining to insurance, health care administration, and medical data. Pursuant to the Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) promulgated regulations setting forth standards for protecting the privacy of identifiable health information. This section of the regulations sets forth a ‘public health carve-out’ and explains the circumstances under which protected information may be disclosed without patient consent. For more information about HIPAA, try a FindLaw search or visit DHHS’ HIPAA Web site.

  The Model State Public Health Privacy Act
Responding to the need for state laws to govern the collection, use, and security of protected personal health information for public health purposes, public health law scholars at the Center for Law and the Public’s Health drafted a model act to guide state lawmakers create informed legislation.

  Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California
Tatiana Tarasoff was murdered in 1969. Two months before the murder, Tarasoff’s parents claim their daughter’s murder had expressed his homicidal intention to psychologist at a University of California at Berkeley hospital. No one warned Tarasoff of the potential threat to her life. Her parents sued, arguing that the University and its doctor had breached their duty to warn Tarasoff. The respondent denied that such a duty existed. Does a doctor have a duty to warn third parties, even if doing so would require the disclosure of otherwise privileged information?


Presidential Apology for the Tuskegee Study
CDC Tuskegee Study Web Site
In 1932, the United States Public Health Service commenced the "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" in rural Alabama. Over the next 40 years, researchers misled, mistreated, and denied medical treatment to the several hundred subjects. In 1997, President Clinton formally apologized for the Tuskegee study and for the researchers who "diminished the stature of man by abandoning the most basic ethical precepts."




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