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of American Physicians and Surgeons, Inc.
A Voice for Private Physicians Since 1943
Omnia pro aegroto
Concerns of Public Health Committee of Pima County Medical Society regarding S.B. 1400:
- The bill is much too broad. It gives tremendous unbridled authority to the Governor and appointed public health officials. 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. It also gives the director the unfettered authority to search or detain or impound any person or property if "he has reasonable cause to believe that there exists a violation of any health law or rule of the state." This could encompass future laws, say a ban on smoking in private vehicles.
- The provisions of the bill have no relationship to the actual severity of the threat. Powers and action that might be appropriate in the event of a smallpox outbreak are not appropriate for a suspected violation of an obscure rule or ordinance, or a potential or hypothetical threat.
- The bill greatly expands traditional public health authority from communicable diseases to any purportedly preventable condition that detracts from health.
- The bill categorically excludes any condition related to human immunodeficiency virus, even though HIV could, under some circumstances (say deliberate attempts to disseminate an especially virulent or readily transmissible bioengineered strain), be far more dangerous to public health that conditions that do trigger the expanded powers.
- The bill confers authority to enforce 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.
- For purposes of this act, the department of health services would be exempted from rule-making requirements.
A bill of this importance should not be passed without very serious deliberation. This bill should be withdrawn. After careful study, with input from physicians and other persons with appropriate expertise, a targeted bill designed to cover true public health emergencies, involving easily transmissible, serious diseases, should be introduced at a later time.