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The Massachusetts Public Health Emergency Preparation and Response Act (H4275) passed the House on 10.08.09.  This piece of legislation articulates the authority granted to the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health during a ‘declared emergency’ and is companion legislation to S2028, which passed in April of this year.  The two bills will now go through a reconciliation process in an appointed Conference Committee.  Both bills have been in the spotlight due to recent H1N1 scares and hysteria, and the loss of rights during a pandemic.

In order to have an accurate understanding of the two bills, we dissected both and the following is our summary:
S2028 is an incredibly broad piece of legislation that:

  1. does not define what constitutes a ‘public health emergency;’
  2. strips the citizens of Massachusetts of core constitutional rights such as your right to be free from unreasonable searches, your right to protect your property, and your right to privacy; and
  3. authorizes the Commissioner to ‘take immediate possession from any source’ anti-toxins, serums, vaccines, immunizing agents, antibiotics … necessary to respond to the emergency.’

H4275 is more reasonable and includes provisions that protect individual rights.  Highlights are as follows:

  1. Commissioner needs Governor approval “to take action and incur such liabilities as the commissioner may consider necessary for the maintenance of public health and the prevention of disease.”
  2. A ‘public health emergency’ is defined;
  3. ‘Prior to administering a vaccination or medication, a medical professional or volunteer shall inform the consumer of any possible side effects.  If no side effects are known at the time of the administration of the vaccination or medication, the consumer shall be informed of that as well;” and
  4. a judicial review process for isolation and quarantine orders.

Contact your Congressperson to ensure your constitutional rights are protected.

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