Press Room

Michigan Court Decision on Health Official's Case is Bad for Public Health

ARLINGTON, VA (Aug. 20, 2018)—Michael Fraser, CEO of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), issued the following statement today in response to a Michigan court's decision to proceed with the prosecution of a sitting health official for decisions made in notifying the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County in 2014 and 2015:

"We are very disappointed that the court decided to allow the prosecution against Nick Lyon to proceed to trial. ASTHO firmly believes criminally charging a public health official for deaths related to an outbreak sets a dangerous precedent for leadership and decisionmaking during a public health crisis. The ultimate goal among our nation's state and territorial health officials is to protect the health and well-being of their constituents. State health officials and their leadership teams are trained to make thoughtful, scientific, and data-driven decisions, while limiting undue public panic. As this case moves forward to trial, ASTHO will continue to articulate the serious ramifications and lasting impact the court's decision will have on our profession as a whole."


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.