Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
×
Home

Law, Liability, and Public Health Emergencies

  • Sharona Hoffman, Richard A. Goodman and Daniel D. Stier
Abstract

According to many experts, a public health emergency arising from an influenza pandemic, bioterrorism attack, or natural disaster is likely to develop in the next few years. Meeting the public health and medical response needs created by such an emergency will likely involve volunteers, health care professionals, public and private hospitals and clinics, vaccine manufacturers, governmental authorities, and many others. Conducting response activities in emergency circumstances may give rise to numerous issues of liability, and medical professionals and other potential responders have expressed concern about liability exposure. Providers may face inadequate resources, an insufficient number of qualified personnel, overwhelming demand for services, and other barriers to providing optimal treatment, which could lead to injury or even death in some cases. This article describes the different theories of liability that may be used by plaintiffs and the sources of immunity that are available to public health emergency responders in the public sector, private sector, and as volunteers. It synthesizes the existing immunity landscape and analyzes its gaps. Finally, the authors suggest consideration of the option of a comprehensive immunity provision that addresses liability protection for all health care providers during public health emergencies and that, consequently, assists in improving community emergency response efforts. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2009;3:117–125)

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Sharona Hoffman, JD, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, 11075 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106(e-mail: sharona.hoffman@case.edu).
References
Hide All
1.PandemicFlu.gov/AvianFlu.gov Web site. http://www.PandemicFlu.gov. Accessed August 29, 2007.
2. Health Systems Research, Inc. Altered Standards of Care in Mass Casualty Events. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/altstand/altstand.pdf. Accessed November 17, 2008.
3.Garner, B. ed. Black’s Law Dictionary. St Paul, MN: Thomson West; 2004.
4.Weiss, RI, McKie, KL, Goodman, RA.The law and emergencies: surveillance for public health–related legal issues during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Am J Public Health. 2007;97:S73S81.
5.The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned. February 2006, page 116. http://www.whitehouse.gov/reports/katrina-lessons-learned.pdf. Accessed November 17, 2008.
6.Hodge, JG, Pepe, RP, Henning, WH.Voluntarism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina: the Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2007;1:4450.
7. National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, July 7–14, 2006. Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act Web site. http://www.uevhpa.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=1&tabid=55. Accessed November 17, 2008.
8. Model State Emergency Health Powers Act §104(m). Center for Law & the Public’s Health, Discussion Draft 2001. http://www.publichealthlaw.net/MSEHPA/MSEHPA2.pdf. Accessed November 17, 2008.
9. 42 USC § 247d (a) (2000).
10. Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals—Legal and Regulatory Issues, Draft Report May 2006. Department of Health & Human Services Web site. ftp://ftp.hrsa.gov/bioterror/May_06_Legal_Report.pdf. Accessed November 17, 2008.
12. Waiver Under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act. Health and Human Services Web site. http://www.hhs.gov/katrina/ssawaiver.html. Accessed November 17, 2008.
13. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. §29:766 (2007); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 26:4–2 (2007).
14.Okie, S.Dr. Pou and the hurricane—implications for patient care during disasters. N Engl J Med. 2008;358:15.
15. Vaughn V. Menlove, 132 Eng. Rep. 490, 492 (C.P. 1837).
16. Adapting Standards of Care Under Extreme Conditions: Guidance for Professionals During Disasters, Pandemics, and Other Extreme Emergencies. American Nurses Association Web site. http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/HealthcareandPolicyIssues/DPR/TheLawEthicsofDisasterResponse/AdaptingStandardsofCare.aspx. Accessed November 17, 2008.
17. Prosser WL, Keeton WP, Dobbs DB et al, eds. Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts. 5th ed. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing; 1984.
18. 28 USC §§ 2671–2680 (2000).
19.Monell v. New York Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690 (1978).
20.Fallon, RH, Hart, HM, Wechsler, H, et alHart and Wechsler’s The Federal Courts and the Federal System. 5th ed. Mineola, NY: Foundation Press; 2003:1001.
21.Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982); Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183, 191 (1984).
22. Pub. L. No. 104-321, 110 Stat. 3877 (1996).
23. Emergency Management Assistance Compact, Art. VI.
24. Ind. Code § 10-14-3-19(d) (2006); Iowa Code Ann. § 135.143.2 (2007); Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit 37-B, § 784-A (2006).
25.A Report on the Emergency Management Assistance Compact to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-07-854. Government Accountability Office Web site. http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-07-854. Accessed November 17, 2008.
26. 42 USC § 14503(a) (2000).
27. The Uniform Emergency Volunteer Health Practitioners Act. http://www.uevhpa.org. Accessed July 24, 2008.
28. 42 USC § 247d-6d–247d-6e (Supp. 2007).
29.Gostin, LO.Medical countermeasures for pandemic influenza: ethics and the law. JAMA. 2006;295:554556.
30. Pub. L. No. 108-276, 118 Stat. 859 (2004), codified at 42 USC § 247d-6a (Supp. 2007).
31. Public/Private Legal Preparedness Initiative. UNC School of Public Health Web site. http://nciph.sph.unc.edu/law. Accessed November 17, 2008.
32.Kessler, DP, McClellan, MB.How liability law affects medical productivity. J Health Econ. 2002;21:931955.
33.Shavell, S.Foundations of Economic Analysis of Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2004:268.
34. What Is Disaster Assistance? Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site. http://www.fema.gov/assistance/process/individual_assistance.shtm. Accessed November 17, 2008.
35. Wolfe MA. Homeland Security: 9/11 Victims Relief Funds. Congressional Research Service, 2003. http://www.law.umaryland.edu/marshall/crsreports/crsdocuments/RL31716.pdf. Accessed November 17, 2008.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
  • ISSN: 1935-7893
  • EISSN: 1938-744X
  • URL: /core/journals/disaster-medicine-and-public-health-preparedness
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed