Friday, June 01, 2007

civil liberties to a point

I read an interesting article today about the legal questions surrounding the quarantine of Jeremy Speakers, AKA the guy with the extreme drug resistant TB. Now the government infringes on civil liberties all the time, and I am the first to cry FOUL!. But not this time. One of the few purposes our government has is to protect its citizens. The CDC exists to protect the populace from outbreaks of disease. How can they do that, if they don't have the right to quarantine infected people?

Do we really want the CDC to have to petition a court before quarantining someone? Can we afford the time that takes? What kind of person, infected with something extremely contagious, would holler about his rights being infringed by quarantine? Sometimes the needs of the many really do outweigh the needs of the one. A plague can wipe out an entire population. The form of TB that Speakers has is nearly always fatal, unless caught extremely early, which is unlikely. His case was only diagnosed by mischance -- he hurt his ribs and had a chest x-ray. Otherwise he still wouldn't know he had the disease, and probably wouldn't, until symptoms had appeared and it was too late to treat. We were all very lucky, including Mr. Speakers. Let's hope he realizes this, and decides not to sue the government.

2 comments:

Kitten Herder said...

Mr Speakers' was not the first case where freedom of movement was impinged upon in the name of public health. Let's all remember poor Mary Mallon (aka Typhoid Mary). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoid_Mary

However, there was an interesting B movie, starring Cuba Gooding Jr, which pondered what it would be like to live in a society where fear of a disease spawned a fascist regime. See "Daybreak" on IMDB http://www.us.imdb.com/title/tt0106676/

I totally agree with you on this guy. We should all just keep an eye on the slippery slope effect though, no?

changejunkie said...

I agree. I am wary of the slippery slope, and we seem to be skidding down in oh-so-many ways.