BU Law Conference on New Legal Challenges to Global Tobacco Control, Jan. 25, 2013

Boston is a great city for health policy. On Jan. 25, BU Law hosts a conference on New Legal Challenges to Global Tobacco Control. Just a month later, Harvard hosts its own conference on the Global Governance of Tobacco (details here).

The BU Law conference  (announcement here; detailed schedule here) will focus on challenges rooted in constitutional law (First Amendment litigation in the US attacking FDA-required graphic images on tobacco packs); trade mark law (plain packaging in Australia); and global trade and investment treaties such as the Hong Kong-Australia Bilateral Investment Treaty and the WTO Agreements.  Speakers include some of the world’s leading public health experts on this topic:

  • Matthew Allen, Allen + Clarke Policy and Regulatory Specialists
  • Micah Berman, New England School of Law
  • Scott Burris, Temple University Beasley School of Law
  • Julien Chaisse, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Richard Daynard, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Samantha Graff, NPLAN
  • Jane Kelsey, University of Auckland Faculty of Law
  • Lara Khoury, McGill University Faculty of Law
  • Mark Levin, University of Hawai’i at Manoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Jonathan Liberman, Cancer Council Victoria
  • Benn McGrady, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Ted Mermin, Public Good Law Center
  • Kevin Outterson, BU School of Law
  • Robert Stumberg, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Allyn Taylor, Georgetown University
  • Tania Voon, University of Melbourne Law School
  • George Annas, BU School of Law and BU School of Public Health
  • Leonard Glantz, BU School of Law and BU School of Public Health
  • Wendy Mariner, BU School of Law and BU School of Public Health
  • Alexandra Roberts, BU School of Law
  • Keynote Speaker: Dr. Michael Siegel, BU School of Public Health

The conference is open to everyone; see the schedule for details. The conference papers will be published in the American Journal of Law & Medicine.

The Newtown Tragedy: Today’s Need for Common-Sense Rhetoric and Regulation

I grew up in a family of gun hobbyists.  One of my older brother’s most treasured Christmas presents from childhood is a rifle that was used in WWII; my dad had a collection of several dozen handguns, shotguns, and rifles, including a semi-automatic AR-15 “assault rifle” and a pearl-plated revolver and holster that he bought with a “Sheriff” badge just for fun; my younger brother is an ex-Marine. Throughout childhood, I spent every weekend of hunting season (and many summer weekends besides) on a West Texas ranch, shooting dove, quail, ducks, and exploding targets attached to grapefruits and ice blocks. And when I went to babysit my niece and nephew for a week in Austin, my brother’s first task was to show me where all of the house’s handguns were kept and how to open the safes he kept them in.

I don’t own a gun myself, and I don’t have any plans to get one. But I understand the utility of guns for both recreation and defense. Of course, as a scholar of health law and constitutional law, I also understand how complex the questions are that guns present for public health and individual liberty. But, as usual, my sense is that there is an obviously correct approach to those complex questions: an approach that seeks balance and optimization. A ban isn’t the right answer, from a policy or constitutional perspective, but in light of the very real dangers that guns present, neither is a strong Second Amendment bar to regulation. Of course, this view represents the current state of the law in both legislation and Supreme Court precedent; the balanced view is inconsistent only with the debate’s heated rhetoric. Here are a few thoughts:

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End of life, language, and the press

By Cristiane Avancini Alves

In my previous post, I mentioned that Brazil does not have a specific law about advance directives. Nevertheless, a recent Resolution of the Federal Board of Medicine addresses this subject. It indicates that so-called “advance directives of will” are the set of desires, previously and expressly manifested by the patient, about the treatment he wants (or does not want) to receive when he is unable to express his will in a free and autonomous manner. Two points must be highlighted: the physician will not follow any patient’s directive that could violate the Medical Ethical Code, and the patient’s wish will overrule the intervention of his family regarding his decision.

The Resolution clearly expresses that “advance directives of will” mean what the phrase itself indicates: a direction, not a closed document that cannot be modified or that must be blindly followed. Time is significant in this context. For example, rapid biomedical development and the new possibility of cure can change the patient’s treatment course, regardless of a prior directive. Besides that, our personal believes about life and death can also change. Unfortunately, these elements have been misrepresented by the media. One of the most important Brazilian magazines dedicated a special report to the subject, but the headline was: “I decide my end”. No. That’s not what the Resolution affirms. The report continues by saying that the expression “advance directives of will” is a “pompous” name for “vital testament”. No. The title is not pompous, but rather accurate – reflecting simply that the document is a previous direction made by the patient. Moreover, advance directives of will cannot be related to testament, since the directive’s effects will occur during life, not after it – as it is for the legal meaning for testament.

Overall, the issues that came up here are indicative of broader issues related to how the media and public understand their rights, and the importance of word choice and clarity to that understanding.

Gun Violence: Lessons Learned from Car Crashes

By Scott Burris, JD

“I have an absolute right to drive any vehicle I want, on any road, at any time, at any speed, and under any conditions.”

That’s an argument few people would take seriously. And few people would take seriously the argument that we should ban or substantially limit automobile use, despite the fact that America suffers more than 30,000 motor vehicle deaths every year.

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Dissertation Grants for Public Health Law Research

The Public Health Law Research program’s Strategic and Targeted Research Program funds research to fill critical gaps in the public health law evidence base. As part of this effort, PHLR is offering dissertation grants to train doctoral students in public health law research methods, including the development of legal datasets. PHLR invites current PhD students in accredited doctoral degree programs to apply.

Dissertation grants will be awarded for up to $20,000 each for 12 months maximum, and they include qualitative or quantitative studies of the health effects of specific laws or regulations and/or related underlying mechanisms of effect, and mapping studies that create a multi-jurisdictional dataset of laws suitable for quantitative research.

Up to $100,000 will be available under this program. Learn more about the call for proposals and how to apply: http://phlr.org/strp