American history contains vivid reminders that grafting the values of law enforcement and national security onto public health is both ineffective and dangerous.
Too often, fears aroused by disease and epidemics have justified abuses of state power. Highly discriminatory and forcible vaccination and quarantine measures adopted in response to outbreaks of the plague and smallpox over the past century have consistently accelerated rather than slowed the spread of disease, while fomenting public distrust and, in some cases, riots.
The lessons of history should be kept in mind whenever we are told by government officials that “tough,” liberty-limiting actions are needed to protect us from dangerous diseases.
— George J. Annas, Wendy K. Mariner and Wendy E. Parmet, ACLU
Annas GJ, Mariner WK, Parmet WE. Pandemic Preparedness: The Need for a Public Health—Not a Law Enforcement/National Security—Approach. American Civil Liberties Union January 2008.