Report From the States
Arizona Governor Given Wide Powers to Fight Bioterrorism
"With no significant dissent, lawmakers voted May 16 to give the governor broad new powers to order medical examinations and even isolate and quarantine people without court approval.
"And it requires police and the National Guard to enforce her orders.
"The legislation is in direct response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It is designed to provide a comprehensive plan of what happens in the case of a biological terrorist attack, beefing up existing laws that give the governor powers in emergencies.
"Not everyone thought it was a good idea.
"House Majority Whip Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, one of only 10 lawmakers to vote against HB 2044, said the governor already has broad emergency powers.
" 'If she needs more, no one from the governor's office came down and told me,' he said.
"The 45-10 House vote and the 29-0 Senate passage sent the measure to Governor Jane Hull.
"It entitles the governor to issue an 'enhanced surveillance advisory' if there is reasonable cause to believe an illness, epidemic disease, biological toxin or a highly infectious and fatal agent has occurred or may occur.
"That declaration triggers various laws on patient tracking and information sharing as well as new requirements on doctors, veterinarians and pharmacists to report any unusual patterns. It also permits state and local health officials to access any person's confidential medical records.
"Additional things can happen if the governor declares a state of war or emergency and there is an occurrence or imminent threat of some diseases, toxin, illness or bioterrorism. The governor could mandate medical examinations for people who have been exposed and ration medicines and vaccines.
"If the threat is of smallpox, plague, viral hemorrhagic fevers or any other highly contagious and fatal disease, the governor also could mandate treatment and vaccination of anyone who has the illness, is reasonably believed to have been exposed or 'may reasonably expect to be exposed.'
"It also allows a person to be quarantined, whether in his or her own home or elsewhere using the 'least restrictive means necessary to protect the public health.' Health officials would not have to seek a court order until at least 10 days after an isolation or quarantine order."
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, Arizona Daily Star, May 17, 2002
AAPS has objected to several provisions of the Model Emergency Health Powers Act, such as mandatory vaccination and other measures that trample on civil liberties and constitute an unwarranted expansion of state powers, on which the Arizona and other state legislations are based. Presently, the model legislation has been rejected or has stalled in 22 states; it has passed in toto or in part in 16 states and in the District of Columbia. ---Editor.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 2002;7(3):101. Copyright©2002
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS)