Sample Essay Paper on Emergency Powers

Different nations experience various kinds of events that call for the intervention of the government to put in measures to help in eliminating or reducing the occurrence of the same events. The events are likely to affect the usual operations in a country(Dyzenhaus 147). Notably, if there is an occurrence of an event in the United States that is likely to hinder people from getting their basic needs, the event is destined to invoke emergency powers. It is expected that people should not be interrupted by any event in a country in the process of striving to acquire the basic needs. Arguably, if there is an event that is likely to interfere with the production and supply of food, water, fuel and or light in the United States, the president is expected to declare that a state of emergency exists in the nation. This paper, therefore, presents various events that seem necessary to invoke emergency powers and analysis of constitutional provisions and case laws to be looked at in defending the position.

The case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts that was heard approximately a century ago gives an example of a case that required emergency powers to be invoked. Pastor Jacobson challenged Massachusetts in court for involuntary vaccination against diseases not to be practiced. Having undergone involuntary vaccination against smallpox, he saw the practice inhumane and argued that people were to be vaccinated if they so wished. At that point in time, his main argument was that smallpox was not so contagious to require forceful vaccination.

In a critical analysis of the case, it is imperative to invoke emergency powers to ensure that certain infectious disease do not spread in event of the outbreak of the disease. Invoking of the emergency powers during an epidemic of a contagious disease is of essence as it would ensure that the disease is prevented from spreading to more people that is likely to cause more deaths if not acted upon in the shortest time possible. Such rules would mean that vaccination against the lethal disease is conducted among the susceptible individuals. In an event of an epidemic of a contagious disease, it is compulsory to do vaccination to those who are vulnerable to the lethal disease. In so doing, the government would have prevented more deaths that would have possibly occurred if people ignored the vaccination call(Dyzenhaus 147).

Notably, other citizens are ignorant and may lose their lives due to lack of knowledge. It is, therefore, the mandate of the government, through the department of public health to create awareness among the public of consequences of the outbreak of lethal diseases and the importance of vaccination against such diseases. In imposing such an emergency power of vaccinating people against a contagious disease, one can defend himself/herself that everyone has a right to life hence if an event that could lead to loss of life occurs, any measure that could prevent the occurrence of death should be imposed. However, it is important to note that the vaccine to be used should be approved first before the commencement of the vaccination process by the FDA to ascertain that it is safe and efficient. On the other hand, a law that authorizes vaccination to prevent the occurrence of a lethal disease in the absence of an epidemic for instance school immunization is to be upheld(Issacharoff et. al. 296). It should only be upheld if the deadly disease still exists in the region where it can spread and if a safe and efficient vaccine could prevent further transmission to other people.

Another event in the cases that seem necessary to invoke emergency powers is the case between Wong Wai and Williamson. The case involved a concern about the behavior of the city and federal officials. The officials inoculated only the Chinese before leaving the city. In essence, that act violated the Fourteenth Amendment(Issacharoff et. al. 296). The inoculation of the Chinese before leaving the city was discriminatory as the Asians were singled out from the inoculation although they were at higher risk of contracting bubonic plaque than others. Arguably, there was no justification for the Chinese to be the only people to be inoculated before leaving the city. It was necessary to invoke emergency powers preventing the city and federal officials from vaccinating only the Chinese before leaving the city. The move could help in reducing the widespread of bubonic plaque. In defending the position, one could argue that inoculating the Chinese only was against the fundamental human rights. Right against discrimination is vital and in an event that the state realizes that some people are discriminated, there is the need to invoke emergency power to avoid the continuous discriminatory acts.

In conclusion, it is imperative for the head of states to invoke emergency powers if an event is likely to threaten the lives of the citizens. Every individual has a right to life and every event that may cause loss of life should be prevented in any way possible. On the other hand, the citizens should also cooperate effectively whenever emergency powers are evoked, or state of emergency is declared. Invoking of such powers should not be viewed as an intention to oppress other people.


Dyzenhaus, David. The constitution of law: Legality in a time of emergency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2006): 147

Issacharoff, Samuel, and Richard H. Pildes. “Emergency contexts without emergency powers: The United States’ constitutional approach to rights during wartime.” Int’l J. Const. L. 2 (2004): 296.