Should The United States Pursue The Right To Pre-Empt Individual Rights?
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The United States has long been known for the protection of individual rights. From freedom of speech, to the right to bear arms, individual liberties are trumpeted across legal, social and economic strata. However, court interpretation of the U.S. constitution and Declaration of Independence offer wider protections, many that have underpinned decisions within the field of public health. Though seemingly at odds with an individual’s right to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment, a state’s police power has often been used to wield authority over the individual in public health matters.
Since the first law in Massachusetts mandating vaccinations in 1850, various states have exercised the right to pre-empt individual rights. By 1905, the Supreme Court case Jacobson v. Massachusetts upheld state authority to require vaccinations. The case solidified the concept that the common good can outweigh the individual right within the U.S. legal framework. In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Harlan was cognizant of the tension between individual and collective rights and penned,…show more content… But it is equally true that in every well-ordered society charged with the duty of conserving the safety of its members the rights of the individual in respect of his liberty may at times, under the pressure of great dangers, be subjected to such restraint, to be enforced by reasonable regulations, as the safety of the general public may demand’.