October 2, 2008
The Center for Health, Science and Public Policy sponsored a theory-practice seminar, “Preventing a Disaster: Guidelines for Dealing with Epidemics,” on October 2, 2008 to address the legal and policy issues that are likely to arise in an influenza pandemic — an issue that gained importance in the spring of 2009 with the emergence of the H1N1 influenza virus.
The purpose of the program, said Professor Karen Porter, was to “provide a forum that covers an issue of significant importance to the public, where there hasn’t been enough public discourse.” Recent outbreaks of avian influenza have generated concern about, and prompted health officials to plan for, the possibility of a pandemic that could overwhelm the health care system and its resources. Professor Porter organized the event and moderated the program, while Professor Marsha Garrison, a bioethics expert at Brooklyn Law School, introduced the panel participants.
In 2006, the New York State Department of Health released its draft preparedness plan for a possible influenza pandemic. Shortly thereafter, the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, at the request of the Department of Health, convened a workgroup to consider the clinical and ethical issues involved in the allocation of mechanical ventilators in the event of such a pandemic. The group brought together distinguished experts in the fields of bioethics, law, medicine, and policy, with representatives from medical facilities and government agencies to address necessary alterations in the standard of care in an emergency.