Quarantine and the Law: The 2003 SARS Experience in Canada (A New Disease Calls on Old Public Health Tools)


  • Nola M. Ries




The authority to quarantine individuals was tested by the 2003 global outbreak of SARS. Quarantine was used during that lime as a public health intervention tool to attempt to control the disease in Toronto. The outbreak put the public health preparedness of the Ontario legal system to the test. This article examines the legal issues related to the use of quarantine as a tool to control infectious disease outbreaks using the Ontario SARS epidemic as a case study. The author first analyzes the laws authorizing public health officials to use quarantine and then identifies the legislative gaps that SARS exposed in these laws. The article then looks at the current legislative reform efforts to create a more prepared legal environment in the event of another public health crisis such as SARS. In addition, the impact of quarantine on an individual and his or her family, including social and economic impacts, as well as its effect on the health care system is discussed. Finally, the legal limits on the use of quarantine are further examined. The author concludes that, because it is likely that a novel infectious agent such as SARS will surface in the future, the public health authorities must be vigilant by ensuring public health legal preparedness.




Forum: Infectious Diseases

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