As the numbers of immigrants in the early 21st century became overwhelming, the federal government of the United States decided to introduce medical inspection policies at every entry border point to determine who enters and who does not. Essentially, a thorough screening of immigrants entering the United States’ was conducted by trained officers and medical specialists under the auspices of the Public Health Service (PHS). Immigrants were allowed into the United States based on their medical results as certified by the PHS officers (Bateman-House & Fairchild, p. 236). That is, individuals without chronic diseases or any physical disability, who were declared to be of sound health, were allowed to enter into the U.S., while those found otherwise were compelled to go back. As such, families were disintegrated and friends were separated on the basis of their physical and mental health. Children were taken away from their parents and parents away from their children, but of course out of their own volition (Bateman-House & Fairchild, p. 237). This paper addresses those policies that would and would not be accepted in the contemporary society based on the prevailing code of ethics, while explaining the due process and individual rights and ethical considerations.
While the PHS’ sole reason for medical screening at potential entry routes was to prevent the spread of maladies in the United States, their officers in the field had a different interpretation of the same. The officers interpreted their work as sieving immigrants on the basis of their ability to make good or bad citizens. It was no longer the issue of preventing the spread of contagious disease but about allowing only the young, muscular, and robust individuals who would supply manpower; these were allowed to cross the borders, while those considered unable to work were considered undesirable and denied entry into the United States (Bateman-House & Fairchild, p. 237). In today’s society, this policy would be considered unacceptable and against the global ethical standards.
In most cases, the elderly were denied the chance to join their families in the United States just because they were regarded not fit to work, and if allowed to enter, they would become a burden to the nation; thus, they were considered as ‘bad’ citizens (Bateman-House & Fairchild, p. 237). Even pregnant women were restricted from entering the nation due to their “inability” to contribute in building the nation because they were unable to provide the required manpower, which was by then crucial to earn one an entry into the U.S. soil. Additionally, people with disabilities were denied entry and were forced to part ways with their loved ones, just because they were unreliable and unproductive. Unlike then, today’s society gives equal privileges to people irrespective of their gender, age, and disability (Bayer, p. 1100). The federal law endeavors to protect individual rights, ensuring that people are allowed to enjoy their rights anywhere at any time.
The issue of privacy has become very sensitive, such that one can face a jail term if convicted and found guilty of infringing on another person’s privacy. Not even a federal agent is allowed to do so without following the procedures and fulfilling other requirements (Bayer, p. 1102). Essentially, what is considered unethical has also become illegal in today’s society. Currently, racism is not condoned and everybody has the freedom to move anywhere as well as enjoy the liberty to work anywhere irrespective of their race, age, gender, or physical disability; this is sanctioned by the law.
In addition, the medical inspection policy saw officers administer the inspection procedures differently based on the migrants’ country of origin. Scientific racism was at the helm of the whole procedure, with Europeans receiving quicker and less stringent grilling before permission to enter the U.S., while non-Europeans had to put up with the long medical procedures and obstacles that often saw their entry bids rejected; they were forced to turn back (Bateman-House and Fairchild, p. 238). The non-European immigrants were stripped off their clothes and examined thoroughly before moving to the next screening station. Today, this policy would be regarded as an infringement on individual’s privacy and against human rights (Bayer, p. 1102). Asian immigrants underwent scrutiny on the basis of their social classes and subjected to thorough screening, including having to take off their clothes for medical inspection. In today’s society, discrimination of people on the basis of their social class is regarded as unethical and is not condoned at any level; medical inspection is applied equally.
Other policies would however qualify as acceptable in today’s society, and these are even practiced as assessments before allowing entry into the United States. These policies include thorough medical screening for immigrants seeking permanent or temporary residence in the United States, restricting entry of people with communicable diseases, and further screening of immigrants even after settling in the country. These policies are encouraged but with a bit of caution, such that immigrants are not strictly excluded on the basis of their disease but on the basis of how critical the migrant’s disease is, along with how serious its impact may be for the U.S. society (Bateman-House & Fairchild, p. 239). Treatment is also availed for those people with curable diseases, and disability is no longer a limiting factor to bar individuals from gaining entry into the United States.
Bateman-House, A. & Fairchild, A. (2008). “History of Medicine: Medical Examination of Immigrants at Ellis Island.” Virtual Mentor: 235-241. Print
Bayer, R. (2007). “The continuing tensions between individual rights and public health. Talking Point on public health versus civil liberties.” EMBO Reports: 1099–1103. Print