In the aftermath of SARS, JCB research showed that citizens understood and accepted the need for restrictive measures to control the spread of infection.
Most saw it as a form of civic duty and were willing to accept limits to their individual liberties for the public good.
A large majority (85%) of survey respondents agreed that governments should have the power to suspend some individual rights (e.g. traveling, right to assemble) during a pandemic influenza.
However, they also contended (95%) that there is a reciprocal obligation of governments to provide food, shelter, social support and other basic needs of restricted individuals and support services after restrictive measures end (79%).
And they argued that restricted individuals should not be penalized by an employer for following a quarantine order (e.g., losing a job).
Half of survey respondents reported that violation of an appropriate quarantine order was equivalent to manslaughter.
Managing a pandemic flu outbreak, including the use of restrictive measures, requires a citizenry that is informed, engaged, and responsive, according to the JCB papers. "This means involving citizens prior to the outbreak as policy and plans are set as well as during the outbreak when these will be implemented."
Among other recommendations, the authors urge public health officials to ensure that pandemic flu plans include a comprehensive and transparent protocol for implementing restrictive measures, founded on the principles of proportionality and least restrictive means, balancing individual liberties with protection of public from harm, and with safeguards such as the right to appeal built in.
What obligations, if any, do Canadians have to support poorer countries in response to a flu pandemic? Should countries have the right to close their borders to tra
University of Toronto Joint Center for Bioethics