Wednesday, June 29, 2005
For a variety of reasons, I have decided to add a public-health component to my health law survey course this fall. One reason is that it provides a nice counterpart to the relentlessly individualistic informed-consent and right-to-die stuff. (My decision to put "right to die" back into the survey course, after having relegated it for years to my 3-hour bioethics course, is a story for another time.) Another reason is to provide an antidote to the students' general confusion over "the police power" in our system of dual federalism. And a third reason is that federal, state, and local preparations for bioterror have made it imperative that health lawyers acquire at least a passing acquaintance with the tools of the public health agencies. In some ways, the Raich case (medical marijuana) and the upcoming Gonzales v. Oregon (assisted suicide) have crystalized my thinking about the interrelationship of the traditional state role in defining the scope of medical practice, self-determination and autonomy, the regulation of end-of-life medical choices, and the respective public-health roles of federal and state actors. I am looking forward to ending the course this fall with Raich and Oregon, and part of the set-up for all of this will be some public-health law basics at the beginning of the semester.
Health law casebooks have made it easy do this, by providing judiciously edited sections on public health law. As memory serves (I am writing this in San Diego, 1000 miles from my books in Dallas), at least the casebooks by Furrow et al. (West), Hall et al. (Aspen), and Areen et al. (Foundation) -- and possibly others -- have been revised in recent years to include some public-health law materials.
A great resource, to which I recur with pleasure and profit on a regular basis, are the public-health law pages on the CDC's website. Their weekly newletter is e-mailed for free every Wednesday, and they've put up a lot of archival material that is worth visiting, especially the "26 readings in public health law" and 15 presentations on a variety of current public-health law topics. [tm]