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Massachusetts Medical Society




The prospect of having to deal with a bioterrorist attack, especially one involving smallpox, has local, state, and federal officials rightly concerned. Before September 11, most procedures for dealing with a bioterrorist attack against the United States were based on fiction. Former President Bill Clinton became engaged in the bioterrorism issue in 1997, after reading Richard Preston's novel The Cobra Event. In Tom Clancy's 1996 Executive Orders, the United States is attacked by terrorists using a strain of Ebola virus that is transmissible through the air. To contain the epidemic, the President declares a state of emergency, orders that all nonessential businesses and places of public assembly be closed, and suspends all interstate travel by airplane, train, bus, and automobile. In defending the order, the fictional President makes a statement that is now often used to justify major changes in our criminal laws: “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.”


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Bioterrorism, Public Health, and Civil Liberties, Volume 346, Page 1337 Copyright ©(2002) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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