STOCKTON (AP) – A judge has refused to release a tuberculosis patient who was jailed and charged after allegedly refusing to take medication to keep his disease from becoming contagious.And at first, of course, I got all outraged: "You're keeping a guy in jail without due process because he wouldn't take his meds? You see nothing wrong with that?" Because that's pretty much my default reaction to anything.
San Joaquin County Judge Brett Morgan on Wednesday denied 34-year-old Armando Rodriguez’s request for release.
The Record of Stockton reports the judge said he was uncomfortable releasing Rodriguez because of his methamphetamine and alcohol use and past behavior.
The meth and the booze, I don't care about. Kill yourself any way you want. Hey, I can go full Scrooge. Go ahead and reduce the surplus population, druggie.
But locking a guy up for refusing to take pills? Normally my reaction to that is pretty unambiguous.
And then reality set in. Cue the internal dialogue:
Wait now. Here's a guy who can pretty much kill people by breathing on them, and he steadfastly refuses to do anything about it.
Normally, steadfastly refusing to do stuff gets a big thumbs-up from me.
But that's going too far, ethically.
Yet when do I start getting a vote about what's "too far?"
Answer: When you're hurting or threatening other people.
They already tried to get him to take free meds, and he wouldn't do it. You gonna start shooting people with TB in the head, when they refuse treatment or quarantine? Your mother probably died of TB, Joel, and it took her years to do it. (ed note: Exactly what killed her is uncertain. Long story.) How many other people you gonna wish that on?
They don't have TB wards any more. And there's no ethical difference between that and jail, the difference is purely esthetic. The door's still locked.
Full disclosure, as if you didn't already know: I spend most of my waking hours thinking I have all the answers. Cases involving involuntary quarantine or forced medical treatment for deadly contagious diseases slap me upside the head and remind me that that's not so.