First, a news update: Officials have successfully contacted all of the passengers who sat next to Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta attorney infected with a fatal, difficult to treat form of tuberculosis. Yet the case is taking another bizarre twist. It turns out that the father-in-law of Speaker may have worked for The Centers for Disease Control and Preventionas a tuberculosis expert and may have given Speaker bad advice. This man is now under federal investigation. [AP via USAToday.com]
Eighteen of our readers have spoken out about the world's most dangerous tuberculosis patient. Below are some of the most interesting reader comments.Meanwhile, you'll find the answer to the question "When can the government quarantine its citizens?" by clicking on this article at our partner site, Slate.com.
I think I would rather have sat next to him than some of my seat mates who have been burning up with fever, coughing, sneezing, slobbering and passing on who knows what. I can't count the many times I've been told "I have no business flying I'm so sick" and the like.--Judi Abbott
The passenger should be arrested and charged with attempted murder.--Jumpjet
Murder might be a little over the top; how about Reckless Endangerment? We are sure he committed that crime--Vt Sailor
Hi, I don't think attempted murder is too strong,.... do you remember how AIDS started?
One flight attendant spread it across the world and now it has infected Africa so bad that nearly every small village will end up perishing eventually, Let alone all the suffering in every other country. I found out the guy was an extremely educated guy and therefore there is absolutely no forgiveness.--Jumpjet, again
Um, he had AUDIO RECORDING of the doctors' statements. Since when do you covertly record your doctor during a visit? He knew full well he might have to explain himself. What he did was unprecedented, in terms of selfishness.--shovel321
Anyone surprised the TB patient flying arround...was a LAWYER? Yah, he knew what he was doing when he came in the back door...--Marty
According to NPR, he checked with his doctor first, who told him he was most likely not contagious. We have the flight numbers he was on, maybe we should see if anyone on those flights is actually sick before we over-react.--Natalie
Anyone heard of forgiveness? None of us know what we would have done. Originally he was told he wasn't contagious -how about all the people at the grocery store, movie theatre, place of work where he was since learning of TB in January...he did not intentionally plan to hurt others and especially not his new wife and daughter. Let's see if anyone else actually contracts TB from him and let them decide what they want to do.--Jules
Remember, his dr.'s told him not to travel and he moved his departure date up a few days. He KNEW he ought not to go and he did anyway. then he was told to report to the authorities in Italy and he made the choice to come home through round about methods. He and the idiot at the border ought to be charged with reckless endangerment and imprisoned. He also needs to pay for all TB tests for everyone he contaminated and those THEY contaminated as well as time lost for the tests. He also ought to be very ashamed of himself.--Lamoreaj
Pull passport, seize assets, garnish future earnings, put these monies in a trust to use to cover all the costs incurred by investigation, health contact, and medical needs of exposed people, until the seriousness of the TB exposure is determined.--Geri
This is for NONSENSE! The only way a toddler would be more of e threat is if his/her diaper hasn't been changed for 24 hours or so. You try to make it sound like there was no danger to anyone and that you know what you are talking about. Maybe if you actually read the newspaper stories you would see that there is NO ta;l of reguler TB here. They are talking about a strain that is pretty rare, especially in the US. It wasn't worth the risk he took in taking the trip. He sounds to me like he's a self-centered, spoiled little kid that doesn't care who the heck he can spread his disease to. The proper term is "RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT".
As a lawyer he has to know better than to pull the crap that he did. Holding him criminally and financially responsible is the only way scoff-laws can be made to understand that the US (and the World) won't stand for it any more.
As for the border guard that let him back into the US, losing his job is what he deserves. Ignoring an alert doen't sound too wise to me. Maybe it's a lack of training, although I don't think so. Sounds like someone just wanted to get his time in & go home.--Johnnybfan
Nonsense is right on target. The man did not have active disease before the flight and does not have active disease now. It is only contagious when it is active. The reason for the media hype is that XDR TB (extremely drug resistant) is a new phenomenon and doctors aren't quite sure how to guard against it. As always, good handwashing and covering coughs (in our sleeves if nothing else is handy) are the things to remember.--needleworker
I read the Chicago Tribune's account of his explanation and it sounds like he was not told he was contagious until he got the notice in Europe from the CDC. He says the notice was confusing. But it also sounds like he was afraid of being committed to an Italian institution for the rest of his life and flew out of fear. He obviously knew he was doing something wrong....he evaded U.S. officials by flying into Canada and correctly surmised that he could sneak through our borders. I think a jail term is in order. And what about taking away his passport for the rest of his life.--KFerg
If Midshipman Speaker were in my platoon at Fort Ord, he would be placed on latrine duty and handle the post hospital wastes with the stockade prisoners for the entire term of duty. To not only go on a deferrable trip, but to place family members including an eight-year old girl??? in endangerment, No excuses whatsoever.--Gerald Jung
I think he should be charged with something. This isn't acceptable. He should feel guilty and be shunned by all travelers forever!!! His father-in-law should be questioned also on his understanding of the disease. I am very suspicious of the whole thing.--Carol
Class action suit by all passengers to recover the costs of any test, plus "pain/Suffering" and "Intentional Affliction of Emotional distress"..as a lawyer, he should recognize those terms! And pull his passport!--Lonna Lee
I wouldn't condemn ALL lawyers for this one person's totally selfish act. I do believe there should be severe consequences in terms of legal and financial consequences.--Linda
Strike one: Knew he had TB
Strike two: Father in law worked for the CDC in the Tuberculosis research area.
Stike three: An attorney that would willing sue anyone else that caused injury to others.
Guilty: Lock him away and attach all current and future assets to pay for the pain and suffering of all the passengers he may have impacted.
Posted by: Gene Adams | June 5, 2007 20:18
What about responsibility?
I am a nurse and a teacher. I teach all of my students that they are responsible for their actions and consequences will result if the action is inappropriate. An educated adult who knowingly travels with this condition, even if the risk of infecting others is small, should be held accountable and be required to pay restitution to the passengers who must now take time away from their jobs to undergo testing and possibly initiate treatment. Do this once and others will think long and hard before attempting something similar.
The Border official who did not follow his instructions or the outlined procedure at the Canadian border because the man "didn't look sick" needs a crash course in Transmission Based Precautions and in doing as directed. There are many individuals who have communicable diseases who don't look ill, but may still infect others if the proper precautions are not taken. I don't recall reading that the Border official had a medical or nursing degree that would enable him to diagnose this condition. Responsibility once again!--JN
Media sells stories. The CDC says he probably wasn't very contagious. Is anyone out there a probability whiz? I would like to see the true probability of him, in his actual physical state, passing on the TB. If he wasn't coughing and blowing his nose, he shouldn't have been overtly contagious, and the fear factor is way out of proportion. His doctors did not tell him NOT to travel. We continually come in contact with people who have contagious diseases, and it's not blasted all over the public air waves. The majority of people on public transportation have good immune systems, and can fight off diseases. Usually, those with compromised immune systems travel in less crowded conditions, or are taking other precautions. We are more threatened driving our cars, having unprotected promiscuous sex, leading sedate, gluttonous lives, driving too fast, and so forth and so on. We should be concentrating on things we can do something about. Oh yeah, bitterness, anger and regrets are unhealthy, too.--Jane
Now that this serious issue has surfaced the "powers that be" need to send a strong message worldwide, and use him as an example of what will occur if this type of thoughtless dangerous behavior should happen again. I see him as an example of subversive terrorism that we need to be aware of and do everything to prevent.--Moonyean Smarzinski
Update: Read more reader comments by clicking here.