April 21, 2024

The world’s most controversial bike-ride

An American nurse recently returned from Liberia has vowed to defy government quarantine measures as authorities seek legal authority to forcibly isolate her.

An American nurse recently returned from Liberia has defied government quarantine measures. Thirty-three-year-old nurse Kaci Hickox refused to abide by voluntary isolation guidelines provided by authorities in Maine, venturing out of her house two days in a row, the second time to take a bike-ride with her boyfriend. A judge has ruled in her favour. Governor Paul LePage was upset. “As governor, I have done everything I can to protect the health and safety of Mainers,” he said. “The judge has eased restrictions with this ruling and I believe it is unfortunate. However, the state will abide by law.”

Hickox says US quarantine requirements are “inhumane” and unreasonable. She tested negative to Ebola on Saturday, and has exhibited no symptoms of the disease. 

There is a clear division between politicians and medicos on the issue of quarantine. Maine Governor Paul Le Page and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, say the state must be “vigilant” to protect its citizens. “I was ready and willing — and remain ready and willing — to reasonably address the needs of health care workers meeting guidelines to assure the public health is protected,” said Le Page.

Bioethicist Art Caplan summed up the medical viewpoint:

“Quarantine is a very intrusive tool in fighting disease. Our legal system permits it, but only when there are no other less restrictive ways to control an outbreak. There are less restrictive ways to contain Ebola, for example, self-monitoring and voluntary isolation at home. Those things work. The only people in America who got Ebola are health care workers who cared for Ebola patients. And to date, all but one who have been treated in America have survived. Ebola is not the lethal disease in the U.S. that it is in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, making quarantine even harder to justify.

“The way to manage Ebola is with strict monitoring for symptoms. The way to manage fear and ignorance is with quarantine. The way to defeat Ebola in West Africa is to treat volunteers as responsible, moral heroes. The way to allow the epidemic to spread is to lock-up those who offer the only chance for treatment and eradication.”

In any case, the epidemic seems to be subsiding in Liberia, the worst-hit country in West Africa, although the experts insist that the epidemic is still extremely dangerous. 

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