Karl Pha feels like he is in prison—he has been confined to an Eau Clair Hospital. Mr. Pha has active TB and refuses to take his medicine. The medication causes extreme itching. I understand his unhappiness, but he has 5 young children. If he doesn’t care about his own life he should at least worry about his kids. TB is a serious disease. Public health officials are not only concerned about Mr. Pha’s health and his family’s health but also the development of an antibiotic resistant strain.

This case brings up a few questions:

  • Should public health officials have the authority to confine someone with an infectious disease?
  • How would you define a situation that requires confinement?
  • Who pays for this hospitalization or other confinement costs?

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

bryan kennedy's picture

Great question Laurie. I absolutely think that public health officials should have the ability to confine people if the health risk is great enough.

But, that's where I sorta have to trust their expertise. I am not a medical expert and am not sure where to draw the line. My conditions would be:

  • If the disease is deadly
  • If it is likely to rapidly spread through the population without the sick person's control
  • If it is likely to mutate into a more dangerous version

I think these conditions would cover TB but not be overarching, where someone with HIV would be quarantined, which I think would be wildly inappropriate, right?

posted on Tue, 12/16/2008 - 1:07pm
bworm's picture
bworm says:

I would define this quarantine as preventive detention. Of course the government should pay for the costs of confinement and the patient should be given the continuing option to reduce the restrictiveness if they opt in to preventative treatment. Such quarentine should only be applied to cases of severe infectious deseases that are air-borne.

posted on Tue, 12/23/2008 - 3:56pm
bworm's picture
bworm says:

at what risk to the people working at this hospital?

posted on Tue, 12/23/2008 - 4:28pm
bworm's picture
bworm says:

Yes someone with a serious and airborned contagious disease such as TB should be confined. Especially if they are putting the public at risk by refusing to take medications. Perhaps they should also be given data on how many people were killed by TB epidemics in the past so they get a reality check in regard to the seriousness of the situation. Mr. Pha is behaving with ignorance and selfishness.

posted on Fri, 12/26/2008 - 7:24pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

As someone who recently was taking medication for latent tuberculosis, I have had a lot of expereince with the local government health agency. One of my biggest suprises is the lack of patient monitoring that takes place. I picked up my medication once a month and for all they knew I threw them in the sink the second I arrived home. I think there needs to be more accountability in these situations.

posted on Sat, 01/03/2009 - 12:07pm
Laurie's picture
Laurie says:

Good point - as it is patient responsibility. Do we want big brother looking over our shoulders? How far should government go? And what about the rights of people around those that are infectious? Who should be making these decisions?

posted on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 11:42pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Authorities do not have a legal right to confine the man. The best they could do is perscribe him a new perscription that does not cause him to itch or have any other side effect. I do believe, however, that authorities should be given the freedom to quarentine someone when he/she is a threat to others.

posted on Tue, 03/24/2009 - 11:01am
Buffy's picture
Buffy says:

Since TB is a highly infectious disease, anyone having an active case of it should be confined. Imagine being on an airplane and sitting next to a person who is having an episode of it. I believe people that are coming from area where TB is common should be examined before entering the US.

posted on Sat, 04/11/2009 - 6:21pm

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