Origin of “Quarantine”
The word ‘quarantine’ is likely derived from
the French quarantaine, which means a group of forty items;
frequently, early quarantines lasted for forty days. In this 1929
article in British Medical Journal, F.G. Clemow discusses
the origins and early history of this form of confinement.
Quarantine and Inoculation for Smallpox in
the American Colonies (1620-1775)
In this 1923 American Journal of Public
Health article, Elizabeth Tandy notes that “the colonization
of America was a bitter fight with disease and death.” As early
as 1647, the colonists imposed quarantines on ships arriving from
other parts of the world. Later, quarantines became common methods
of controlling the spread of smallpox.
v. Board of Health [Wyman]
Mary Kirk was a woman of “culture and
She was also afflicted with leprosy, contracted while working as a
missionary in Brazil. To prevent the disease from infecting others,
the local Board of Health ordered her isolation. Although leprosy
is contagious, was the Board’s decision necessary to protect the public?
of New York v. Antoinette R.
Treatment for tuberculosis often requires patients
to complete a six to nine month course of medication. Prematurely
ending the treatment may render the patient infectious again and present
a hazard to others. To prevent the disease from spreading, New York
City authorized the Commissioner of Health to detain non-compliant
patients. Antoinette R. was detained pursuant to this authority. Does
the risk of spreading tuberculosis justify the restriction of personal
States v. Sturgis
provides an early example of a court trying to interpret the meaning
of ‘dangerous weapon,’ an issue that becomes increasingly salient
in the cases below. In Sturgis, the defendant strikes a correctional
officer with a metal and plastic chair and is convicted of assault
with a deadly weapon. Is such a chair a deadly weapon under District
of Columbia law?
Indiana v. Haines
Responding to a report of a suicide attempt,
police arrived at Haines’ home to find him lying in a pool of blood
with his wrists slashed. Haines told the officer that he had AIDS
and wanted to be left alone to die. As paramedics attempted to subdue
him, Haines intentionally splattered blood while scratching and biting
them. Haines was later charged with three counts of attempted murder
for attempting to transmit the fatal disease. Were these charges appropriate?
Jersey v. Smith
While incarcerated in a county jail, inmate
Smith threatened to kill correctional officers by biting and spitting
on them to transmit his HIV infection. On June 11, 1989, he carried
out this threat and bit the hand of a guard and breaking the skin.
A jury convicted him of attempted murder and a judge sentenced him
to 25 years. On appeal, Smith attributed the harsh sentence to discrimination
based on his HIV status. Claiming that HIV cannot be transmitted by
biting, he argued that his conduct constituted nothing more than assault.
In this appellate case, the court reviews that application of a criminal
statute to a case involving medical and public health evidence.
States v. Moore
The facts of Moore and remarkably
similar to those in Smith, above. Defendant Moore bit correctional
officers while incarcerated at a federal medical facility and was
convicted of two counts of assault with a deadly and and dangerous
weapon – his mouth and teeth. In this case, the 8th Circuit discusses
whether the severity and nature of the bite warranted this conviction
in addition to the relevance of Moore’s HIV status.
States v. Johnson
Under the interim provisions of the “Brady bill” firearms
control act, state and local law enforcement agencies are required
to perform background checks on potential gun purchasers in certain
circumstances. The petitioner objected, claiming that the Constitution
forbids Congress from requiring state officials to carrying out
federal laws. Does this provision of the law intrude on state sovereignty?