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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



I got the Rockin’ Pneumonia . . .

June 2nd, 2007 by Caroline Spector

By now, everyone and their dog has heard the story about the American TB patient who ignored his doctor’s advice and traipsed off to Europe to get married. 

In all fairness, apparently Mr. Speaker did not know that the strain of tuberculosis he had was the deadly, antibiotic-resistant strain, XDR TB, when he left for Europe.  But, you know, to my way of thinking, that doesn’t matter. He knew he had TB. 

And anyone with half a brain (and by all accounts Mr. Speaker has at least that. He’s a lawyer) would have known that TB is a contagious disease.  Yes, I know that it was unlikely that anyone would have been infected by Mr. Speaker given the low amount of TB in his sputum, but would you have volunteered to sit by him on an eight-hour trans-Atlantic flight? 

A lot of blame is being directed at the C.D.C. and at a US Border Agent who let Speaker back into the country after he was tagged as a carrier of dangerous infection.  But let’s cut the crap.  The primary person responsible for this fiasco is Mr. Speaker. 

I am staggered by his sheer selfishness.  Given a choice between changing his wedding plans and risking infecting other people, he chose his wedding.  What a guy.  What a romantic. 

And his callousness is revealed by the back-door manner in which he came back to the US when informed that he had this deadly strain of the bacterium. 

Since the media storm has broken on this case, Mr. Speaker and his new bride have made tearful appearances on TV talk shows from Speaker’s hospital room in Denver.  He’s apologized for putting people at risk.  Wow, what a guy.  What a paragon of humanity. 

Speaker claims he was afraid if he didn’t get to the clinic in Denver he would die.  Yeah, because healthcare in Europe is so terrible.  And that statement says it all, doesn’t it?  His health was what mattered.  No one else’s. 

The thing that’s even more scary to me about this whole scenario isn’t just that he put the passengers on his flights at risk, but the extent of the vectoring that may have occurred because of his actions.  All those passengers were bound for other destinations. 

He flew from Atlanta to Paris, took two other short flights to Greece and Rome, and then made his sneaky, back-door return to North America by flying from Prague to Montreal, then driving to New York.  Just think about how many people came in contact with him.  Think about the different countries they went to from Rome, from Paris, from Greece.

Mr. Speaker will get no sympathy from me.  He’s likely going to have part of one of his lungs cut out to remove the TB infection.  He’ll be on medications that can damage his liver.  And he may be in the hospital for as much as two years.  That is indeed a harsh reality.  But irresponsibly exposing other people to a similar fate because you’re a narcissistic jerk — well, it almost seems like poetic justice.

 

Posted in Caroline, Daily Life, Medicine, People | 10 Comments »

10 Responses

  1. Rory Harper Says:

    I haven’t been following this story much, but if this guy did all the evasive things you say, he knew.

    And, considering that he doesn’t sound poor, what kept him from acquiring a hazmat suit and doing the whole thing proper and careful?

  2. Ken Houghton Says:

    He’s a personal injury lawyer.

    As several locals noted, if his name were, say, Guillermo Hernandez and his skin tinted a bit, he would be getting the reaction he deserves.

    He’s lying, of course, but that’s rather beside the point.

    When Jack got TB, everyone who had been close to him had to be tested, and several people had to get shots for the next year just from having been exposed.

    The odds of someone getting the full infection may be rather low, but those eight-hour seat neighbors are likely going to have some painful tests in their near future. And their paramours. And any infants, etc.

    It’s an UGLY vector.

  3. Madeleine Robins Says:

    Were I his new bride I’d not be Standing By My Man, I’d be first in line to have his ass in a sling. “Hi, honey. I know I might be infecting you with something really nasty, but you know, I just had to be there to infect you on our special day.” Doesn’t matter whether he had a garden variety TB or the ultra-nasty strain he does have–it’s TB. Used to be the scourge of contagion wards everywhere. And it was so important to this yutz that he get to have his big day that he risked infecting the wife, the families, the guests–as well as all the innocents that stood between him and his wedding.

    Two years in the hospital? Add on another couple in jail, to my mind. And divorce on top of it. (Yes, I find this unforgiveable.)

  4. Jess Nevins Says:

    I’m hoping that he suffers through the hell of lawsuits from everyone he put at risk. Endless lawsuits, until the day he dies.

  5. Caroline Spector Says:

    Rory,

    He did know he had TB when he left the states. He doesn’t deny that.

    And the reason he flew back to the US via Canada was that the C.D.C. TOLD HIM while he was in Europe that he had the XBR form. They also told him not to fly — which he did anyway. (He was told to check himself into a hospital in Rome.)

    He ran back to the US like a scared little baby, utterly indifferent to anyone else’s safety.

    In one of their interviews, Speaker and the new Mrs. Speaker whine that the C.D.C. had abandoned them because they told him to stay off airplanes and check himself into a hospital. They wanted a military transport back to the states since he wasn’t supposed to fly commercial.

    Excuse me, but what a couple of assholes.

    The more I think about this case, the more pissed I get.

    I’m all for individual rights, but when you willfully endanger other people because you don’t want to check into a hospital in Rome and then complain because you’re being confined in a hospital here — well, fuck your rights. You’ve abdicated them.

  6. LDA Says:

    Patient Zero strikes again.

  7. Caroline Spector Says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Speaker’s new wife has an eight-year-old daughter who was traveling with them in Europe.

    I’m with Madeleine on this one.

  8. Bud Simons Says:

    What do you call a thousand lawyers with drug-resistant TB at the bottom of an ocean?

  9. Steven Gould Says:

    Ah, Bud, the classics never die.

  10. Morgan J. Locke Says:

    I came across a couple of posts by a health care professional at a science blog I read, Effect Measure, which I think are worth taking into account. Revere posts:

    “My defense of the TB guy has drawn a lot of traffic and some of the comments imply my view is colored by a case of misplaced compassion. Since I’m a physician I won’t shy away from being called compassionate. Whether true or not in my case, it is a desirable trait for a doctor and nothing to be ashamed of. However I don’t think my opinions about this case are due to sentiment. I would defend them on the grounds they are sound judgments of a public health professional. Since I am unlikely to convince the doubters by repeating my arguments (you can find them at these links), I will do something else. I’ll let other public health professionals repeat my arguments.”

    The pseudonymous blogger goes on to provide other physicians’ and health professionals’ reactions to the furor over TB Guy’s actions, here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2007/06/the_tb_guy_others_weigh_in.php#more

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