Opinion Saturday: The TB that went ’round the world

Did you read about the man who flew all over the world with an active case of TB? If you missed the story, you can catch up here: A Tangle of Conflicting Accounts in TB Patient’s Odyssey.

What do you think about what he did? What would you do if you or a loved one were stuck in another country with a complicated illness? What if your wedding plans were being jeopardized? Were his actions justified? Why or why not?

You have until Monday evening to offer me your opinion. The person who does the best job explaining his or her point of view will win the Golden Keyboard award, and one other random commenter will win a 6 month Netflix membership. Hit me with your best thought!

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  1. This man tells us he is intelligent and well-educated, but claims that he did not realize that his case of TB was contagious. He is a personal-injury lawyer, but he left himself open to a charge of reckless endangerment of several hundred people who unwittingly shared air space with him. He claims he was afraid he would die if he stayed in Italy, but acted in a manner that proclaims his lack of concern for the health and safety of others. Today I read that Greek officials are saying that he and his “wife” did not file the appropriate documents for a legal marriage, so the ostensible purpose of his trip (wedding and honeymoon) remains unsubstantiated. His “wife’s” father is an expert on tuberculosis; did he never think to ask him if his condition could be dangerous to others? Did the girl’s father think that his daughter is immune somehow?
    TB used to be considered a serious health threat, due to lack of treatment options and its contagious nature. I personally know people who were taken from their parents’ custody because the parents were infected with TB, which certainly affected their lives and upbringing dramatically. TB is still a difficult disease to treat under the best of circumstances. It requires a long course of treatment (up to 6 months) and monitoring, and people often stop treatment once they begin to feel better, which leads to the development of the highly resistant strain this young man has apparently contracted.
    What he did was not only incredibly thoughtless and selfish; it was criminal.
    I hope he has a good lawyer.

  2. My non-compliance pretty much defines me as a person. If the general opinion seems to be flowing one way, it is pretty much certain that I will head in the other direction. However, it’s not working in this case. As much as want to claim that this man had a point, that the CDC had pretty much abandoned him in Italy, and that he was justified in leaving the country against their recommendation in the first place, I just can’t do it.

    The reason why keeps coming down to the fact that he knowingly exposed other people to a deadly disease, risking their lives to save his own. When talking to Diane Sawyer, the man kept saying that turning himself over to the CDC and checking himself into a hospital in Rome would have blown his “one, last shot.” He could have chartered a flight, but claimed not to be able to raise the money, and so decided to preserve his life by flying commercially to Canada.

    His life.

    I don’t know what I would have done in the circumstances. I really don’t know. I hope, however, that I would have seen that one life, no matter how precious, weighs little when compared to the lives of many others. I hope that I would have done everything in my power to save my own life, but never at the cost of a single other man, woman, or child.

  3. The man has a form of TB that can not be cured. He appears to be an intelligent man. I believe it is his responsibility to find out the risks his disease poses to the public. They perform weddings in the USA. It was not necessary for him to travel. He may have been following a dream, but he pursued that dream by placing other passengers at risk. I feel this was selfish and negligent. He should be held libel for any harm he may have caused others. It seems ridiculous to me that marriage has anything at all to do with this. His reason for getting on the plane does not matter. Why do we care so much he did it for “love”? Big deal! What matters is he did it. It was plan wrong he did it! It was thoughtless that he did it! If I was sitting near this man on the flight, and I had a family I needed to care for (and I actually do have a family), and I got his TB, well his “marriage and honeymoon” plans would not comfort me. If someone I love got TB from this man, his so call reason for traveling would not justify him in my mind. “OK, my son or daughter now has an incurable disease but the reckless man was only seeking his own selfish happiness so I forgive him”! Wrong!!! Sorry, wrong!!!

  4. Here is my opinion very simply–this situation perfectly illustrates how our society has generally become one of entitlement over courtesy. I am absolutely disgusted.

    There ya go—-short and not so sweet!

  5. I’ve been in similar shoes to his. While living in Eastern Europe, I was preparing to go to the states for my wedding and honeymoon when I heard that a strain of Bovine TB (which is different from regular TB) was being actively transmitted in my country through dairy products. Not knowing anything about TB, I called the airline, the local office of the World Health Organization, my doctor, set up testing, and made sure that if I had been infected I would not be contagious. I was horrified that we might have to cancel the wedding, but potentially starting an epidemic would be worlds worse. I like to think that any logical person with integrity and compassion would do the same.

  6. Oooh… if you’d posted this a month ago I would have answered one way. But I have a little experience under my belt right now that I am willing to share. Our son just came home from Ethiopia (4 weeks ago) and in 48 hours came down with the mumps. No vaccinations for it in Ethiopia, so he caught it in Ethiopia. He was probably contagious on the plane to the US, and very contagious once in our home. He was so ill that he was hospitalized for 4 days. In the hospital, he was treated like he had the plague. We were quarrantined, studied, and every test known to humankind was performed on my poor son. They knew it was the mumps, but a kid from Africa with no vaccinations raises some red flags. I just wanted my son well, to not be suffering. He was so, so ill. Praise God he’s fine now, and came through OK. But then…I had been exposed and was possibly contagious. I had to wait 3 weeks to find out if I would get the mumps or not. I was immunized as a child, but didn’t get the booster since my husband traveled to Ethiopia, not me. You really need the booster to have full protection. So there I was, kinda quarrantined myself. I about went bonkers! I had to especially not go near any young children. It was so hard to change my routine, my schedule, and my plans. Not because it was an inconvenience but because I had no symptoms. It was easy to convince myself that I was fine. All I’m saying is that I understand that this man–who didn’t feel sick and claims he had no symptoms–was most likely thinking about his LIFE. In no way do I excuse what he did. But I think I might know a little bit about where he was coming from.

  7. In one breath he says he was afraid if he didn’t get back to the US he thought he would die— he knew it was serious. In the next breath he says he didn’t think he was a risk to anyone but felt he had to try to sneak back home.

    I’m with Missy on this one.

  8. I guess I find this one impossible to answer, since my life does not parallel his in any way.

    But I do agree he did disregard the safety of others, and really, did he truly exhaust all of his options?

  9. His coming home, and risking the lives of all with whom he came in contact, wouldn’t have been a problem if he had kept some perspective about his health versus his wedding in the first place. As a society, we seem to have lost sight of what is important in life. Weddings are nice, marriages are important. Doing what makes you happy is a bonus, living as a participatory member of society is necessary.

    When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I visited a lot of wedding web sites and followed quite a few wedding chat room posts. I can still remember being just appalled at what I read. Instead of planning a life together, filled with mutual goals, respect and love, people were complaining that the carpet of the church, which they would attend service at for the first time ever on their wedding day, wasn’t going to match the dresses of the brides maids. WHAT!!! How the pictures would look and getting to be king or queen for the day totally superseded the idea that these couples were joining their lives forever to another person.

    I bring all this up, because when I found out that this gentleman with TB traveled to another county for his wedding I was reminded of the singular focus that I used to see repeated time and time again in wedding chat rooms, “This is my day damn it and no one is going to tell me what to do.” That seems to be the attitude of this couple, especially the gentleman with TB. Selfishness is not a good foundation for a marriage or for a happy life. The gentleman put his own desires above the safety of everyone that he came in contact with, including his wife and child. In my opinion, this is a person who needs to re-evaluate his priorities, which he will have plenty of time to do while he is in quarantine.

  10. I live in Singapore, a country heavily dependent on trade and tourism. In 2003, the SARS virus entered our borders and my country was brought to its knees. Businesses went under. People lost their jobs. Our airport, one of the busiest in the world, went deathly quiet. Malls, usually bustling and busy, stood empty. Taxis drivers, always in demand in our 24-7 environment, drove hours without custom. Over 30 people, patients and healthcare workers, lost their lives.

    And how did this virus come into Singapore? Through just one person, who unbeknownst to her got infected in Hong Kong and came back to Singapore.

    Had she known what it was she had contracted, how infectious it was, and what effects it would have, she would have had no excuse. And, in my opinion, neither does he.

  11. There are a couple of things that are especially disturbing to me in this story. The first being that the man was leaving the country for his wedding and this was the incredibly important personal reason for him to leave the country. No one was going to die if he didn’t make it to Santorini for his wedding. I don’t understand the complete inflexibility that people have when it comes to weddings. The day itself is not the most important thing – what comes after (the marriage) – is what is important. He put other people in danger (and his future wife in danger) for the sole purpose of having a wedding. My hubby and I planned our wedding in 6 days so that we could be married before he left for Iraq. Was it what I had dreamed of since I was a little girl? No. To us the wedding day itself wasn’t important. Being married and going through a horrible situation together was important. Our wedding day was beautiful and special and magical because of that. And I wouldn’t change a thing (well…except his deployment).

    The second thing that disturbs me about this situation is that this man’s future father-in-law works on TB for the CDC. He could have called to get expert advice at any point. He had the resources that most average Americans do not have. But, even without that connection, he could have done some searching on the internet and learned that TB is not something to be played with.

    We have to stop pretending that the world is not such a small place. What we do on one side of the world often has a direct effect on people on the other side. This becomes glaringly clear when someone hops on a plane and within 10 hours is on another continent putting other people at risk for something. In the age of SARS and bird flu, governments across the globe have to start working together to protect everyone. Since this man was able to get into other countries, and then get back into the U.S. after being placed on a no-fly list only provides evidence that the safeguards that should be in place are not.

    Through the whole situation, he was more concerned with HIS life than he was with the safety and welfare of anyone else. As a personal injury lawyer, he should have known that this behavior was leaving him open for lawsuits.

  12. I have to think the picture at the beginning of the article sums up a great deal of the atricle–his wife is wearing a mask, he is not. My first thought was “He’s the one who is sick, why is he not wearing the mask?” It seems to come down to selfishness.

  13. I sure wouldn’t want to be quarantined with a deadly illness in a foreign country. I liked someone’s idea above that he could have chartered a flight. Or maybe he could have swam.

    At very least he could have worn a mask.

    What would I do? I doubt I would have risked leaving the states in the first place.

  14. Should he have worn a mask? Yes, near as I can figur out, the CDC told him he was not at risk and that he could go on his trip as planned. So as far as getting there, i don’t see issues with what he did (other than the fact that he should have worn a mask possibly).
    But getting back, at that point, he just wanted/needed to get back home, and he knew that the easiest way for him to get back to the US was through Canada. He was no doubt irresponsible, but I think people do worse things every day, it’s just that most of the things aren’t brought into light.

  15. In Japan it’s common for people who have colds to wear masks out of courtesy to others. It’s eerie the first time you see a scattering of medical masks in a crowded subway, but you quickly come to appreciate the effort.

    This guy acted poorly and his own comments prove his guilt.

    My mom told me some non-immunized guy who knew he had measles flew domestically last week. If I was a pregnant lady next to him…. well, I just hope no pregnant folks were seated anywhere near him. My cousins don’t believe in immunizing (or health insurance- which I think is a particularly interesting prayer magnet of a combination) and I am not sure we’ll visit them if I do become pregnant again.

  16. Honestly I feel sorry for the guy. Yes it’s scary to be exposed to a disease but he wanted to come home. Imagine all the stuff we’re exposed to all the time, without knowing. He’s still a person and must be utterly humiliated by this whole thing. (Nothing profound, just my opinion!)