The Future of Human Rights and Justice-Centered Ethics in Epidemic Response

UCLA’s Health Law and Policy Program is pleased to present The Future of Human Rights and Justice-Centered Ethics in Epidemic Response. This initiative brings together researchers, community organization leaders, and current and former health officials to discuss legal and governance mechanisms for ensuring that measures adopted to mitigate the impacts of epidemics are consistent with human rights and justice-centered public health ethics. It is cosponsored by the Health Science Center, School of Law, and School of Medicine of Texas A&M University, the Williams Institute and the Promise Institute for Human Rights, and by the David Geffen School of Medicine Global Health Program.

In the decades following the emergence of HIV, advocates shaped the development of health law and policy by arguing for reforms to ensure that compulsory public health measures and legal regimes governing access to medicines were consistent with human rights protections and ethical values. The standards and procedures they championed (with partial success) emphasized the importance of individualized risk assessments, use of the least restrictive alternative, provision of supportive services, privacy and antidiscrimination protections, and affirmative rights to access treatment. During the Covid pandemic, policymakers relied heavily on measures that put the onus on individuals to change their behaviors, often in the absence of adequate legal protections or supports. Moreover, existing legal mechanisms and ethical frameworks were insufficient to ensure equitable distribution of PPE, diagnostics, vaccines, and treatments within the United States and globally. Amid ongoing efforts to reform international, national, state, local, tribal, and territorial laws, this initiative aims to develop, disseminate, and implement ethical and human rights frameworks to guide the future of epidemic response.

The Initiative Co-Chairs are Lindsay F. Wiley and William Sage.


This image contains four logos: Texas A & AM university; UCLA School of Law Williams Institute; UCLA School of Law Promise Institute for Human Rights; and, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine Global Health Program


Upcoming Future of Epidemic Response Events

Professor Heilman earned his law degree at the University of Southern California, where he was Notes and Articles Editor of Southern California Law Review and the recipient of the Shattuck Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Law Center. He later earned a Master's in Public Administration and a Master's in Real Estate Development at USC. He practiced law in the private sector and in 1987 joined the legal writing faculty at Whittier Law School. In 1990, he was appointed as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, and in 1999, he was named the Distinguished Teaching Professor of Law at Whittier. Over the years, Professor Heilman has taught torts, civil procedure, criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, real property, contracts, local government law, professional responsibility, sexual orientation law, and AIDS and international law. He established Southwestern's Summer Program on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law. He also helped establish Southwestern's Eviction Defense Clinic. He has received numerous teaching awards since joining Southwestern's faculty in 2012.

Professor Heilman has also been a prominent elected official, having served as Mayor (eight different terms) and City Council member of West Hollywood from 1984-2020. He was active on the city's incorporation committee, served on the first city council, and was responsible for hiring initial staff and developing operating policies and procedures, as well as the crafting of landmark ordinances for rent stabilization, and prohibiting discrimination on the basis of AIDS or HIV status, one of the first in the nation. Professor Heilman has been an active member of the National League of Cities and has served on the board of both the National and California League of Cities. He is a past board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the Local Government Commission and is also past president of the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Local Officials Group.

  • 2024 Blog Symposium

    Initiative co-chairs Lindsay F. Wiley and William Sage will edit a symposium hosted by the Bill of Health blog in 2024. The blog symposium will feature contributions from speakers at our November 2023 conference.

Past Events

  • 2023 Conference

    UCLA Law hosted a national conference on The Future of Human Rights and Justice-Centered Ethics in Epidemic Response: From HIV to Covid and Beyond on November 2-3, 2023.

    Thursday, November 2, 2023

    Welcoming Remarks

    • Dean Michael Waterstone, JD, UCLA Law
    • William Sage, MD, JD, Texas A&M University
    • Hannah Garry, JD, MIA, Executive Director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights, UCLA
    • Cecily Gallup, MD, MPH, Acting Interim Director of the Global Health Program, UCLA Geffen School of Medicine

    Panel 1: The History, Sociology, Anthropology, and Political Economy of Epidemic Response

    Panel 2: Frameworks to Guide Epidemic Response: Ethics and Human Rights

    4:00-4:15 - Break

    4:15-5:30 - Panel 3: Community-Led Responses to Epidemics
    Room 1314, UCLA Law

    • Moderated by Brad Sears, JD, Founding Director of the Williams Institute, UCLA
    • Gregg Gonsalves, PhD, Yale University
    • Andy Imparato, JD, Executive Director of Disability Rights California and former member of the Biden-Harris COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force
    • Alberto Retana, President and CEO of Community Coalition


    Friday, November 3

    Panel 4: Legal and Governance Mechanisms: From Local to Global

    • Moderated by Lauren Dunning, JD, MPH, Director of the Future of Aging at the Milken Institute, former Director of Government Affairs, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
    • Oxiris Barbot, MD, President and CEO of the United Hospital Fund of New York, former New York City Health Commissioner, former Baltimore Health Commissioner
    • Robert Gatter, JD, St. Louis University, Uniform Law Commission Reporter
    • Ben Mason Meier, JD, LLM, PhD, University of North Carolina
    • Alexandra Phelan, SJD, LLB, LLM, Johns Hopkins University
    • Gregory Schwab , JD, Drexel University, Uniform Law Commissioner, former General Counsel of Pennsylvania

    Panel 5: Equitable Access to Medicines and Medical Countermeasures

    Panel 6: Guidance, Mandates, Restrictions, and Supports for Community Mitigation

    Panel 7: Decriminalization, Decarceration, Deinstitutionalization, Harm Reduction, and Legal Protections

Questions about the Future of Epidemic Response? Email

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