Public health ethics require individuals who are inherently at risk for transmitting communicable disease to be subjected, oftentimes, to isolation, quarantine, or compulsory vaccination - all undertaken, as such, to protect the common good and thereby secure the public-at-law for exposure to the spread of an infectious disease.
This article tests the extent to which public health emergencies necessitate a reinterpretation or reshaping of the common good and proceeds to analyze the extent to which the medical principle of triage is a relevant construct for allocating scarce medical resources during contemporary public health emergencies. The article proceeds to test the efficacy or codification of this construct by applying it to The National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.
The efforts to advance law reform in dealing with public health emergencies and bioterrorism through the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act and the Turning Point Medical State Public Health Act are analyzed. The conclusion drawn from the analysis is that national emergencies force disequilibrium in the system of liberties and constitutional rights which, in turn, have the effect of placing public safety concerns above what, heretofore, were seen as unassailable fundamental values of autonomy and privacy. Pragmatic courts and pragmatic social orders, then, must respond accordingly to these changed circumstances by recalibrating what has been a point of balance or equilibrium by restricting previously validated civil liberties in favor of safety and maintenance of the common good.
George P. Smith, II, Reshaping the Common Good in Times of Public Health Emergencies: Validating Medical Triage, 18 ANNALS HEALTH L. 1 (2009).