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ACLU: Pandemic Preparedness

The Need for a Public Health -- Not a Law Enforcement/National Security -- Approach

Authors: George J. Annas, Wendy K. Mariner, and Wendy E. Parmet
January 2008


The ACLU examines the relationship between civil liberties and public health in contemporary U.S. pandemic planning and makes a series of recommendations for developing a more effective, civil liberties-friendly approach. Part One reviews this relationship in a historical context, examining in particular the disastrous consequences of public health policies built around a vision of sick people as the enemy. Part Two summarizes post-9/11 plans intended to protect the nation against a possible influenza epidemic and how these plans rely upon the false premise that public health is a law enforcement or national security problem that can be solved by limiting the rights and liberties of affected individuals. Part Three provides a series of recommendations for an improved paradigm for pandemic preparedness -- one that protects both public health and civil liberties.

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