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News of the Day ... in Perspective


Doctors threatened with jail for giving flu shots

It “just gives us a back-up,” stated Janet Olszewski, Michigan’s director of community health, in case people aren’t sufficiently community minded, but health care violators in Michigan could be jailed for up to six months if they give a flu shot to someone who does not have a government-defined high priority.

Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have issued similar restrictions with varying penalties. Citizens in Oregon are invited to report suspected violators; two reports about allegedly healthy people receiving the shots have been checked out, and no wrongdoing was found.

“It’s not rationing,” said Massachusetts Public Health Director Christine Ferguson. “It’s being rational about how to reduce the number of deaths that could result from a serious flu season.” (Amy Bailey, AP, 10/15/04).

Ms. Ferguson issued an order pursuant to the Massachusetts emergency powers statute, to be posted prominently in all locations where influenza vaccine is administered. The order defines “high risk,” warns of the penalties, and also threatens referral of violators to the appropriate professional board of registration.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson is urging all state attorneys general to prosecute anyone found to be “price gouging.” (www.hhs.gov/news, Oct 14, 2004).

Additional information:

AAPS analysis and testimony on emergency health powers acts

Thank Hillary Clinton for flu vaccine shortage. AAPS News of the Day 12/18/03.

Can the government constitutionally impose limits on a patient’s right to obtain medical treatment for which he is willing to pay? “Zelman memorandum” from documents of Clinton Health Care Task Force.

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