Legal issues affecting children with preexisting conditions during public health emergencies

Lainie Rutkow, Jon S. Vernick, Lawrence S. Wissow, Gregory J. Tung, Felicity Marum, Daniel J. Barnett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Among the millions of children in the United States exposed to public health emergencies in recent years, those with preexisting health conditions face particular challenges. A public health emergency may, for example, disrupt treatment regimens or cause children to be separated from caregivers. Ongoing shortages of pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists may further exacerbate the risks that children with preexisting conditions face in disaster circumstances. The US Department of Homeland Security recently called for better integration of children's needs into all preparedness activities. To aid in this process, multiple legal concerns relevant to pediatricians and pediatric policymakers must be identified and addressed. Obtaining informed consent from children and parents may be particularly challenging during certain public health emergencies. States may need to invoke legal protections for children who are separated from caregivers during emergencies. Maintaining access to prescription medications may also require pediatricians to use specific legal mechanisms. In addition to practitioners, recommendations are given for policymakers to promote effective pediatric response to public health emergencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-95
Number of pages7
JournalBiosecurity and Bioterrorism
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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