Public Health Law News

August 2017

Letter from the Editor

The Public Health Law Program (PHLP) would like to thank ToMinh Le and Rose Meltzer, master of public health candidates who interned with PHLP this summer, for their extensive work researching and writing the Public Health Law News. Their dedication and creativity have been outstanding. We would also like to thank intern Vasilios Nasoulis, an undergraduate with OSTLTS, for his assistance in researching stories for the July edition of the News.

PHLP welcomes public health and law students as interns and externs every semester. Every student takes on different projects, depending on their academic and professional interests; a few work on the Public Health Law News. Interested candidates should visit PHLP’s internship and externship programs webpage for more information.

F. Abigail Ferrell, JD, MPA
Editor in Chief


Hot Topics at the Intersection of Public Health and Health Care, Part I: Outbreak, Disaster, or other Emergency: Is Your Health Care Client Prepared?external icon The American Health Law Association, in collaboration with PHLP, is offering the first in a three-part webinar series about emergency preparedness inside and outside of healthcare settings. Speakers will discuss ways to use legal assessment, employee training, and professional agreements to prepare healthcare organizations to respond to emergency situations. In addition, speakers will provide lessons learned from Ebola and active shooter incident scenarios. This free webinar will take place on September 12, 2017, 1:00–2:30 pm (EDT).

Journal Article: Federal Travel Restrictions to Prevent Disease Transmission in the United States: An Analysis of Requested Travel Restrictions.external icon This article, published by Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease, analyzes the effectiveness of public health travel restrictions as a tool to prevent individuals with certain communicable diseases from traveling commercially.

Emergency Law Inventory (ELI).external iconThe University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and its partners at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Allegheny County Health Department (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), and Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana Counties (Ohio) released ELI, a tool that provides summaries of laws affecting participation in emergency response activities. ELI is searchable by profession and jurisdiction.

Legal Tools

When It’s Time To Leave: Summary of California Mass Evacuation Laws. This issue brief, published by PHLP, provides an overview of how statutes and regulations in California play a vital role in ensuring that response personnel have the necessary authority to accomplish effective and efficient evacuations from threatened areas.

Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) 2.0:external icon CDC and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have updated this reporting system so users can submit a VAERS report electronically, access VAERS data, and learn more about how CDC and FDA monitor vaccine safety.

State Telehealth Laws and Reimbursement Policies Report.external icon This report, published by the Center for Connected Health Policy, the National Telehealth Policy Resource Center, offers a current summary of Medicaid provider manuals, applicable state laws, and telehealth-related regulations for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Top Stories

Florida: Florida to pay legal fees in case that kept doctors from discussing gunsexternal icon
New York Times (07/24/2017) Matthew Haag

Story Highlights
Florida Governor Rick Scott has approved a payment of $1.1 million in legal fees to attorneys who sued the state over HB-155 in 2011. Known as the “docs vs. glocks” law, HB-155 restricted doctors from discussing gun safety with their patients. Under the law, doctors could lose their licenses and face up to a penalty of $10,000 per offense if they talked about gun ownership and firearm habits with their patients. A group of doctors sued the state, saying that medical providers have a right to discuss safety risks and dangers with their patients.

In February 2017, a federal appeals court ruled HB-155 unconstitutional on the basis that it tried to restrict medical providers’ First Amendment rights.

[Editor’s note: Read Florida’s HB-155external icon.]

District of Columbia: Assisted suicide is legal and available in DC – for nowexternal icon
Washington Post   (07/17/2017)   Fenit Nirappil

Story Highlights
Terminally ill residents of Washington, DC, can now obtain life-ending drugs under the city’s assisted suicide law. The Death with Dignity Act, passed by the DC Council in November 2016, has gone into effect. The nation’s capital joins five states—California, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington—in allowing terminally ill adults to end their lives voluntarily.

Physicians and pharmacists are not required to participate in the Death and Dignity program. Patients must be at least 18 years old and not expected to live more than six months. Patients who suffer from a psychological condition are not considered capable of making the decision and cannot partake. Patients must request prescriptions for the life-ending drugs twice, and the requests must be made at least 15 days apart. They must ingest the drugs themselves. The process is expected to take at least three weeks (i.e., between the first request and the receipt of the drugs).

Opponents of assisted suicide believe that the Act undermines life. They have also expressed concern that people with disabilities could be pressured into ending their lives early.

The DC Department of Health is responsible for regulating the implementation of the Death with Dignity Act. The department provides educational resources on the assisted suicide process and requirements for patients, physicians, and pharmacists.

[Editor’s note: Visit the DC Departmentexternal icon of Health for more information on the Death with Dignity Act of 2016external icon.]

National: Opioid commission tells Trump to declare state of emergencyexternal icon
CNN   (08/01/2017)   Wayne Drash

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, formally urged Donald Trump to declare a federal public health emergency to combat the opioid crisis.
Usually, public health emergencies are declared only during natural disasters. However, the commission urged Trump to “declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act” due to the health and social problems opioids have caused nationwide. More than 500,000 Americans died of drug overdoses between 2000 and 2015; opioids account for the majority of overdose deaths. “With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death equal to September 11th every three weeks,” said the Commission. “The first and most urgent recommendation of this Commission is direct and completely within your control. Declare a national emergency.”
The Commission also strongly encouraged legislation to dispense Naloxone to first responders.
[Editor’s note: Read the interim report pdf icon[PDF – 470KB]external icon from the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The commission’s final report is due in October.]

Briefly Noted

California: This could be the next big strategy for suing over climate changeexternal icon
Washington Post   (07/20/2017)   Chris Mooney and Brady Dennis
[Editor’s note: Read the Register of Actions in The County of Marin v. Chevron Corp., et al, Superior Court of California, County of Marin, CIV 1702586external icon for more information about the case.]

Illinois: Cook County jail is giving at-risk inmates Narcan upon their releaseexternal icon
WTTW (08/08/2017) Jay Shefsky

Massachusetts: Massachusetts enacts Pregnant Workers Fairness Actexternal icon
National Law Review (07/31/2017) Robert M. Shea
[Editor’s note: Read the Pregnant Worker Fairness Actexternal icon.]

Mississippi: All sworn state law enforcement will be issued Narcan to counter opioid overdosesexternal icon
The Clarion-Ledger (08/03/2017) Therese Apel

Ohio: Price transparency in medicine faces stiff opposition—from hospitals and doctorsexternal icon
Kaiser Health News (07/31/2017) Rachel Bluth

Ohio: Insurers will make sure nearly every county has an Obamacare carrierexternal icon (08/01/2017) Stephen Koff

Pennsylvania: School immunization changes go into effect this yearexternal icon
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (07/31/2017) Elizabeth Behrman

Philadelphia: Transgender care latest target in health-law battlesexternal icon (07/13/2017) Eileen Bass
[Editor’s note: Learn more about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health.]

Texas: At a growing number of schools, sick kids can take a virtual trip to the doctor
STAT (07/19/2017) Leah Samuel

Texas: Judge denies ExxonMobil request to reduce $20 million air pollution fineexternal icon
Texas Tribune (07/31/2017) Kiah Collier

Vermont: Vermont’s new telemedicine law expands insurance coverage, bans recordingexternal icon
Health Care Law Today (07/19/2017) Nathaniel M. Lacktman and Thomas B. Ferrante
[Editor’s note: Read Vermont’s telemedicine lawexternal icon.]

National: FDA aims to lower nicotine in cigarettes to get smokers to quitexternal icon
Washington Post (07/28/2017) Laurie McGinley and William Wan
[Editor’s note: Read Protecting American Families: Comprehensive Approach to Nicotine and Tobaccoexternal icon, from the FDA.]

National: Legal loophole allows drug shipments into country via US Postal Serviceexternal icon
KFVS (07/31/2017) Tom Ensey

National: In breakthrough, scientists edit a dangerous mutation from genes in human embryosexternal icon
New York Times (08/02/2017) Pam Belluck
[Editor’s note: Read about genetic testingexternal icon and laws related to genomicsexternal icon.]

Global Public Health Law

Britain: Britain cracking down on gender stereotypes in adsexternal icon
New York Times (07/18/2017) Iliana Magra

India: In some countries, women get days off for period painexternal icon
New York Times (07/24/2017) Aneri Pattani

Italy: Amid measles outbreak, Italy makes childhood vaccinations mandatoryexternal icon
NPR (06/19/2017) Christopher Livesay

Public Health Law News Quiz

The first reader to correctly answer the quiz question will be featured in a mini public health law profile in the September 2017 edition of the News. Email your entry to with “PHL Quiz” as the subject heading; entries without the heading will not be considered. Good luck!

Public Health Law News Quiz Question August 2017

Who are the speakers for PHLP’s upcoming webinar, Hot Topics at the Intersection of Public Health and Health Care, Part Iexternal icon, on September 12, 2017?

Court Opinions

Federal: Claims for cost recovery and negligence not dismissed in lead and arsenic environmental contamination case
Rolan v. Atlantic Richfield Companyexternal icon
United States District Court, Northern District of Indiana
Case No. 1:16-CV-357-TLS
Filed 07/28/2017
Opinion by Chief District Judge Theresa L. Springmann

Federal: Claims brought by Flint, Michigan, residents against officials for lead contamination not preempted by Safe Drinking Water Act, dismissal reversed
Boler v. Earleyexternal icon
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
Case Nos 16-1684, 17-1144
Filed 07/28/2017
Opinion by Judge Jane B. Stranch

Federal: Doctors’ right to ask patients about firearm ownership protected by the First Amendment right to free speech
Wollschlaeger v. Governor, State of Florida pdf icon[PDF – 394KB]external icon
United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
Case No 12-14009
Filed 02/16/2017
Opinion by Judge Adalberto Jordan

Quote of the Month

Tom Dart, Sheriff at the Cook County Jail in Chicago

“We’ve got to keep them alive (and) if we can get them through that two-week window, they might get treatment, get off drugs.” —Tom Dart on the purpose of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

Editor’s note: This quote is from Cook County jail is giving at-risk inmates Narcan upon their releaseexternal icon,
WTTW, 08/08/2017, by Jay Shefsky.

The Public Health Law Newsis published the third Thursday of each month except holidays, plus special issues when warranted. It is distributed only in electronic form and is free of charge.

The Newsis published by the Public Health Law Program in the Center for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support.


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Public Health Law News (the News) content is selected solely on the basis of newsworthiness and potential interest to readers. CDC and HHS assume no responsibility for the factual accuracy of the items presented from other sources. The selection, omission, or content of items does not imply any endorsement or other position taken by CDC or HHS. Opinions expressed by the original authors of items included in the News, persons quoted therein, or persons interviewed for the News are strictly their own and are in no way meant to represent the opinion or views of CDC or HHS. References to products, trade names, publications, news sources, and non-CDC websites are provided solely for informational purposes and do not imply endorsement by CDC or HHS. Legal cases are presented for educational purposes only, and are not meant to represent the current state of the law. The findings and conclusions reported in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of CDC or HHS. The News is in the public domain and may be freely forwarded and reproduced without permission. The original news sources and the Public Health Law News should be cited as sources. Readers should contact the cited news sources for the full text of the articles.

Page last reviewed: August 17, 2017