Legal, Ethical, Political and Economic Concerns

Legal Issues

The Legal issues page collates legal questions surrounding a pandemic for example the legal ramifications of Isolation and Quarantine.

Legal liability comes into play before and during a pandemic. During the 2004–2005 flu season, the United States experienced shortages of regular flu vaccine. Some 20–40,000 people die of influenza during a “regular” flu season. The limited supplies of vaccine that were available in the United States during the 2004–2005 flu season were dispensed on either a first-come-first-serve or lottery basis. Organizations were unwilling to determine that one person was “sicker” or more in need of the vaccine than someone else. Everyone was afraid if any kind of decision making system was employed that you would be sued by the family of the other person who died because they were not given the vaccine. This was so even in settings where the CDC gave physicians guidelines based on at least age and general types of illness to treat first. If a pandemic occurs, do you treat the old or the young? Who would you vaccinate and who would you treat with oseltamivir (Tamiflu)? Unless there are clear federal guidelines, organizations will revert to a lottery or first-come-first-serve basis to avoid potential liability.

See also: Preparing the Justice System for a Pandemic Influenza and Other Public Health Emergencies from Bureau of Justice Assistance

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The Ethics page is for ethical issues surrounding pandemic preparedness for example the rationing of scarce resources, the ethics of triage or “Truth-telling” vs. “Panic-mongering”.

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The Economics of Avian Influenza collects information on the economic impact of a pandemic. In August of 2005, Toronto-based brokerage firm BMO Nesbitt Burns issued a report detailing the economic impact of an influenza pandemic on global markets, suggesting that it (worst case) could trigger a crisis similar to that of the Great Depression. A more recent business preparedness appraisal from the same firm can be found here. See also this article by veteran influenza reporter Helen Branswell on financial concerns in Canada.

Ian Welsh’s two-part essay, The Economics of a Flu Pandemic, discusses the economic ramifications of a pandemic before, during and after the outbreak, including the managing of scarcities, the emergence of black markets, rationing and other similiar matters.

For more on the possible disruption of essential services, and possible action (reaction, proaction) regarding such disruption, please visit and help us build the page on Anticipated Problems. Specifically, you may want to look at the financial section.

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The Politics of Avian Influenza collects statements and news stories that touch on the political aspects of pandemic preparedness and public health policy around the world. Opinions and rants are not generally appropriate for this section; please use the Discussion Forum or, for more elaborate statements, create an entry on the Opinion page (see also About FluWiki).

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Page last modified on January 09, 2008, at 11:48 AM by Bronco Bill