April 13, 2007

Phoenix, Daniels and XBR-TB

A lot of people - myself included - wanted additional information about the recent reports of Robert Daniels, an XDR-TB patient currently housed in the jail ward of a Phoenix hospital. Google News and USA Today do not disappoint! From the article, a couple of the more serious questions we all had can now be answered.

Q: Did Daniels know he was supposed to wear a mask out in public? A: Yes - apparently Daniels was living in an indigent patients home under voluntary quarantine post-hospitalization in 2006, when he was caught going to the convenience store several times without wearing a mask. His explanation? He thought the doctors were overreacting, since he was on medication and feeling better.

Unfortunately, this attitude isn't rare, and is one of the reasons we have many drug-resistant strains of diseases. Patients are notoriously bad at not taking their medication once they start to feel better, or otherwise underestimating the need for finishing a prescription.

Q: Why did they take away his TV, phone, radio, etc? He must have done something, right? A: Wrong. I'll just quote from the article on this one, since it's kind of unbelievable. The sheriff, Joe Arpaio, said that "Jailers seized his TV, clock radio and phone in February, saying he should be treated like other "inmates." His cellphone was returned to him Tuesday after news reports about his incarceration." The sheriff says he'll get the TV back "soon".

Of course, why he should be treated like other inmates wasn't addressed, other than the implication being that he's living in the inmate ward of the hospital, therefore he should be treated like the rest of the inmates. But for better or worse, Daniels is not an inmate and has not (nor will be) charged with a crime; he's under a civil commitment to protect the public health while he's being treated. And it makes you (or at least me) wonder - if the media had not gotten wind of this story, what would have happened?

The return of some technological items also doesn't change the fact that Daniels is living in a jail cell. He still can't shower, and can't even turn the light off in his cell - a low wattage bulb burns 24/7. If he does remain civilly committed for the rest of his life, is this really how he should be forced to live it, because he contracted a strain of disease that we cannot cure? Aren't we punishing a victim, here?

Certainly Daniels made a mistake by not following doctor/public health orders, but how long does that punishment last? He says he's learned his lesson, and it was finally explained to him in a way that he understood just why he had to wear a mask. Do we ever break down and say okay, and give him a chance to live, with limits, in society again? And if not, don't we have some obligation to, in exchange for locking him away for societal protection, provide comfortable housing and amenities? -Kelly Hills [The TV and phone have just been returned - Glenn]

Tags: , ,

Labels: ,

View blog reactions

| More