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JAMA publishes professors' commentary on emergency preparedness

James G. Hodge Jr., ASU Lincoln Professor of Health Law and Ethics
July 21, 2011

A manuscript by James G. Hodge Jr., ASU Lincoln Professor of Health Law and Ethics, and Erin Fuse Brown, a visiting assistant professor at the College of Law, has been published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). “Assessing Liability for Health Care Entities that Insufficiently Prepare for Catastrophic Emergencies,” was published in the July 20 edition of the prestigious journal.

The article focuses on the increasing potential for health care entities to incur liability for deficiencies in their emergency preparedness systems, using as an example a settlement by Tenet Healthcare on the eve before trial in March 2011. The health care giant was sued by plaintiffs who alleged the emergency responses at its Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans, where 45 people died during Hurricane Katrina, were insufficient and that Tenet’s failure to prepare for a foreseeable emergency caused them harm.

Hodge and Fuse Brown touch on the events that took place at the medical center during the crisis, and they write about the national priority that hospital emergency planning and preparedness has become since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2011. Their article reports on ongoing legislative and policy proposals that may insulate health care entities from liability. The authors call for a rethinking of the entities’ obligations and immunities.

“Legal clarification of a standard for entity liability is needed so health care entities are not compelled to prepare endlessly for every contingency,” they write. “Subject to further development, the relevant legal standard for adjudging entity liability for emergency preparedness failures should account for the foreseeability and magnitude of patient risks, the relative costs to plan and prepare, and the causal connection between preparedness lapses and specific patient harms.”

To read the full article, click here.

Hodge is Director of the Public Health Law Network – Western Region, Director of the Public Health Law and Policy Program at the College of Law, a Faculty Fellow in the Center for Law, Science & Innovation, and an Affiliate Professor in Global Health, ASU School of Human Evolution & Social Change. Through scholarly and applied work, he delves into multiple areas of public health law, global health law, ethics, and human rights. Hodge teaches Health Law, Ethics, and Policy, Public Health Law and Ethics, and Global Health Law and Policy at the College of Law.

Fuse Brown is a Visiting Assistant Professor, Fellow in the Public Health Law and Policy Program, Deputy Director of the Public Health Law Network – Western Region, and Lincoln Visiting Fellow for Ethics and Health Policy. Her research and teaching interests are in health law and policy, public health law, clinical research ethics and bioethics. Fuse Brown teaches Health Law and Policy, Bioethics and the Law, and Public Health Law and Ethics. She came to the College of Law from the San Francisco office of Ropes & Gray where she practiced in the health care group.