February 19, 2002
To: Arizona members and supporters of AAPS
Re: SB 1400, on "Public Health Emergencies"
Arizona's version of the Model State Emergency Health Powers Act (MEHPA) has been introduced as SB 1400 by Senators Gerard and Guenther. Although it does not contain all of the landmines in the model bill, there are a number of reasons for serious concern.
1. The bill is very broad and vague. For example, the authorities may track and treat individuals (and physicians must cooperate under threat of losing their license) simply because of "reasonable cause to believe" that a public event might be the object of a bioterrorism event. Would a sports event qualify?
2. The search-and-seizure provisions can be triggered by "reasonable cause to believe that there exists a violation of any health law or rule of the state"-no need for an actual or imminent public health threat. This could encompass future laws, say a ban on smoking in private vehicles.
3. The bill categorically excludes any condition related to human immunodeficiency virus-even deliberate attempts to disseminate an especially virulent or readily transmissible bioengineered strain. An instructive amendment would be to insert "or any condition posing a lesser threat" after "HIV."
4. The bill confers authority to force vaccination or treatment on persons who "may reasonably be expected to be exposed," regardless of medical contraindications or personal beliefs, without any alternatives such as a period of isolation at home.
To follow the bill, go to www.azleg.state.az.us and click on "A.L.I.S." If you then click on the committees (Health and Rules) you will find an e-mail link to each committee member. You can also find your own senator and representatives from the District Map; their e-mail addresses and telephone numbers are listed on the roster. (Anne at the AAPS office has a copy.) The Capitol switchboard for the Senate is (602) 542-3559, and for the House, (602) 542-4221.
Tell your Senator to oppose this bill in its current form, and to vote NO on any measure he hasn't read in its entirety or which violates Constitutional rights.
Jane Orient, M.D., Executive Director