The Return of Quarantinism and How to Keep It in Check: From Wishful Regulations to Political Accountability

Dissertation, University College London (2010)
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Concerns about emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases have given a new lease of life to quarantinist measures: a series of time-honoured techniques for controlling the spread of infectious diseases through breaking the chain of human contagion. Since such measures typically infringe individual rights or privacy their use is subject to legal regulations and gives rise to ethical and political worries and suspicions. Yet in some circumstances they can be very effective. After considering some case studies that show how epidemics are unique, fluid and affected by a multitude of contingent factors, it is argued that the legal and ethical guidelines may not always be the best approach to discipline the use of quarantinist measures. An alternative model based on ex-post political accountability for reasonableness is proposed. This model restores the centrality of political decision and expert judgement in situations characterized by high risk, uncertainty and contingency. It is argued that such alternative model affords quicker and more flexible responses to serious outbreaks of infections, while providing adequate protection against abuses.

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Giovanni De Grandis
Norwegian University of Science and Technology


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