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January 27, 2010

Assessing the Legal Standard of Care in Public Health Emergencies

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Public Health Law and Policy Program, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, Tempe (Mr Hodge); and Center for Biosecurity, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland (Ms Courtney).

JAMA. 2010;303(4):361-362. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.31

On October 23, 2009, President Obama declared a national emergency1 in response to the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic. The president's declaration followed the US Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) prior declaration of a public health emergency in April 2009.2 Together, these declarations changed the legal landscape for influenza A(H1N1) response efforts domestically. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, was authorized to waive or conditionally set aside or modify certain federal program requirements and disable federal law requiring hospitals to screen patients seeking emergency services on site. These federal responses and several state-based emergency declarations are intended to help clinicians handle surges of patients with flu symptoms and other conditions.