May 08, 2008

SIH/SIU Health Policy Institute set for next week

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An interdisciplinary symposium next week at the Southern Illinois University School of Law will focus on the medical, legal and public policy challenges of dealing with potentially dangerous people.

"The Dangerous Patient: Medical, Legal and Public Policy Responses," is Friday, May 16, at the SIH/SIU Health Policy Institute.

The annual institute, now in its 10th year, is an important contributor to the Center for Health Law and Policy's national reputation. U.S. News and World Report recently recognized the law school's Center for Health Law and Policy as 16th nationally among healthcare law programs.

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to attend any of the sessions. To schedule a specific presenter for an interview, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school's director of communications and outreach, at 618/453-8700.

Registration ranges from $50 to $100, with continuing education credit available. Pre-registration is suggested, and forms are available online at The program should appeal to health care providers, policymakers, physicians, attorneys, and others interested in addressing risks posed by dangerous patients. On-site registration is available the day of the program.

The topic is inspired by the April 2007 mass-shooting tragedy at Virginia Tech University, and last summer's case involving an Atlanta trial attorney infected with tuberculosis who flew on transatlantic flights.

The symposium will examine how the law both empowers and places limits on health care professionals and others when dealing with dangerous patients in both man-made and naturally occurring threats, said Marshall A. Kapp, law professor and co-director of the of the Center for Health Law and Policy.

Man-made threats could involve a terrorist or bio-terrorism threat, while a naturally occurring threat could involve an infectious disease, he said.

"That's really the question -- at what point does our concern with individual rights threaten our ability to protect the public?" Kapp said. "And can we in this modern age with all the threats out there -- both naturally occurring threats and man-made threats -- reconcile our commitment to individual rights with our public interest in protecting the population?"

The symposium will raise questions concerning the "incredibly difficult balance between public safety and public health, and individual rights," said W. Eugene Basanta, law professor and center co-director.

Many of the speakers will discuss infectious and communicable diseases and "how our public health system, how our legal system, addresses communicable diseases." Basanta said.

Another program topic looks at strengths and weaknesses of approaches that focus on trying to predict and control an individual's potential for dangerous behavior versus approaches more devoted to broader population-based health interventions.

Southern Illinois Healthcare, the SIU School of Medicine, the law school's Center for Health Law and Policy, the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and St. Louis-based Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard law firm are program sponsors.

The program features presenters nationally known in their respective public health law fields, Kapp said.

Douglass Mossman, a professor and director of the division of forensic psychiatry at Wright State University's Boonshoft School of Medicine and the University of Cincinnati College of Law, recently earned the American Psychiatric Association's Manfred S. Guttmacher Award. The award -- in forensic psychiatry -- is comparable to a Nobel Prize, Kapp said.

The program always strives to present balanced viewpoints, Basanta said.

"This is something we have strived for in putting together programs in the past," Basanta said. "We have an array of viewpoints about issues. Attendees will find that speakers have different views about the issues and strong support for their views."

The event schedule is:

  • 9 a.m. -- Welcome and introductions. Law school Dean Peter C. Alexander and Dr. Thomas J. Firestone, president, Southern Illinois Healthcare.

Morning moderator: Marshall B. Kapp, Garwin Distinguished Professor of Law and Medicine, professor of medical humanities, co-director, Center for Health Law and Policy, SIU School of Law.

  • 9:15 a.m. -- "The Dangerous Infected Patient: An Approach to Characterizing the Risks Posed by and Duties of Persons Infected with Communicable Disease Pathogens." Dr. Richard A. Goodman, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta.
  • 10:30 a.m. -- "Dangerous People, Irrational Fears: Developing a Rationale Jurisprudence for Non-Criminal Dangerousness." Edward P. Richards, director, Program in Law, Science and Public Health, Paul M. Herbert Law Center, Louisiana State University.
  • Noon -- "The Dangerous Patient: The Legal Challenges to Containing the Dangerous Patient during a Disease Outbreak or Bioterrorism Event." Marilyn Thomas, chief legal counsel, Illinois Department of Public Health.

Afternoon moderator: W. Eugene Basanta, Southern Illinois Healthcare Professor of Law, professor of medical humanities, co-director, Center for Health Law and Policy, SIU School of Law.

  • 1:15 p.m. -- "Dangerous Perspectives: The Perils of Individualizing Public Health Problems." Wendy E. Parmet, George J. and Kathleen Waters Matthews Distinguished Professor and professor of law, Northeastern University School of Law.
  • 2:15 p.m. -- "The Imperfections of Protection Through Detection and Intervention: Lessons from Three Decades of Research on the Psychiatric Assessment of Violence Risk." Douglass Mossman, professor and director of the division of forensic psychiatry at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.

For more information on the symposium, visit