Free Case Study On Relevance Of Jacobson V Massachusetts
1. Summarize the case, highlighting the reasons why this case was controversial.
Nearly 100 years ago, in Jacobson v Massachusetts, the exercise of police power for protecting the health of the public was upheld by the US Supreme Court. However, despite the intervening legal and scientific advances, the public health practitioners are still facing the basic tension created by this case between common good and individual liberty. While affirming the compulsory vaccination of Massachusetts, the Court provided the basis for constitutional protections comprising of old standards; necessity, proportionality, reasonable means and harm avoidance. According to Jacobson, the Court supported the public health matters up to the extent it respected these standards. In case, this case has to be decided by the Court today, it is likely that the analysis would be different, particularly in view of the developments made in constitutional law; however the basic power of government to protect the health of the public will certainly be reaffirmed by the outcome. However there are certain reasons due to which, the case is considered as one of the most significant judicial decisions related to public health. There are certain reasons due to which, a controversy has been attached with this decision. In this case, the court recognized the police power, which is the most significant aspect of state sovereignty. However the question can be asked in this regard if the case would have been decided the same way by the Court even today.
2. Do you think the ruling was ethical? Why or why not?
If the conventional position is accepted that an inherent tension is present between public health and simple liberties and the struggle for me concerning this tension is the most significant challenge faced by law and ethics, it can be said that the decision given by the court in Jacobsen is still relevant and vital. The decision can be termed as ethical and it also needs to be made in this regard that the validity of the decision given in this case as a sound modern precedent is obvious. At the same time, the reasoning of this decision has been repeatedly affirmed by the federal and state courts which include the US Supreme Court. The validity of compulsory vaccination has also been upheld by the courts on several occasions (Calandrillo, 2004 p353).
Even the focus of rare judicial reservations regarding compulsory vaccination is on religious exemption but they do not question the authority of the state to create immunization requirements that are applicable to all.
3. More than one hundred years later, the ruling still plays a role in the authority of public health officials and has been stated as the most influential case for public health thus far. Describe two public health laws that the Jacobson ruling be seen in across the nation.
Although 100 years have elapsed since the decision was given by the Supreme Court in this case, however the relevance of this decision has not increased for the public health officials. There are certain reasons due to which, the decision is considered as one of the most influential decisions for the public health officials. There are a number of instances in which the significance of vaccination for public health has been highlighted. For example, measles which can be prevented with common MMR vaccine is considered as a disease of the past due to the mandatory vaccination regulations. However, there was an outbreak of measles in Indiana in 2005 in a particular area where the level of vaccination was low. It was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that behind level of vaccination in surrounding community and the low rate of vaccine failed to prevent an epidemic (Parker, 2006 p447). Therefore it is important to maintain a high rate of vaccination coverage along with improved strategies of communication with the person who refuse vaccination in order to prevent future outbreaks. In this way, the significance of vaccination programs needs to be acknowledged as a vital part of preventing more outbreaks of the disease in the US which in turn performs the logic of the code behind the decision given in Jacobsen nearly 100 years ago (Gostin, 2000).
One example that can be given in this regard is the “public health emergency” law of Florida which allows compulsory vaccination to be carried out by law enforcement agencies.
In the same way, there is a law in every state that requires schoolchildren to provide documentation at the time of entering the school that they have met the requirements of state immunization program (Hodge and Gostin, 2002 p868).
Calandrillo SP. (2004), Vanishing vaccinations: why are so many Americans opting out of vaccinating their children? Mich J Law Reform 37:353–440
Gostin LO, (2000) Public Health Law: Power, Duty, Restraint, Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press
James G. Hodge, Jr. & Lawrence O. Gostin, (2002), School Vaccination Requirements: Historical, Social, and Legal Perspectives, 90 KY. L. J. 831, 868-73
Parker, Amy A. et. al, (2006) “Implications of a 2005 Measles Outbreak in Indiana for Sustained Elimination of Measles in the United States”, New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 335, 3 August, 447-455