The Questionable Authority

Thou Shalt Not Be Bloody Stupid

Tara and Revere have posts up today on the story of the anonymous jackass of Air France Flight 385 and Czech Air flight 104. His story has been all over the news lately – he’s the idiot with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) who took two intercontinental flights after being diagnosed with the disease because he didn’t want to mess up his long-planned wedding in Greece, or honeymoon in Rome.

Yesterday, he told his side of the story to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, because wanted “to make sure his side of the story was heard.” Reading his side of the story, I was reminded of the old saying, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and have people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” The intellectually impaired gentleman in question was a much more sympathetic figure before he tried to explain himself.

Here are the basic facts that underlie this case. All of them are acknowledged by the patient himself. In some cases, the health authorities have slightly different memories, but for these purposes let’s be kind and give Mr. Twobraincell the benefit of the doubt.

  • Flying with active TB is generally considered to be a bad idea.
  • The patient was, at a minimum, told this. He was also told, at a minimum, that the health department “preferred” that he not travel. Idiot-boy decided that “prefer” wasn’t the same as “not allowed,” so he was going to travel anyway.
  • While the patient was in Italy on his honeymoon the CDC discovered that his TB was even more drug resistant than was initially thought.
  • The CDC contacted the patient in Italy, informed him of the diagnosis, informed him that he was under no circumstances to fly back across the Atlantic, and ordered him to turn himself over to Italian health authorities for treatment and isolation. They also informed him that his passport was flagged and that he was on the no-fly list.
  • The patient disregarded these orders, and evaded the no-fly list by flying on foreign carriers as far as Montreal, then driving to New York.
  • The patient is now in isolation, with an armed guard in place to make sure that he stays there.

It’s possible – barely – to write off the first few chapters in this escapade as a misunderstanding. Perhaps he just didn’t understand the circumstances, or believed that they would have used stronger measures to keep him from traveling if it was that dangerous to others. We couldn’t be absolutely sure, based on this, that the man is a miserable jackass. There would merely be an overwhelming weight of evidence pointing to the conclusion that this guy is a self-centered jackass who was willing to risk infecting an unknown number of strangers in order to have a nice wedding.

The return to the US removes any lingering doubts. He was ordered, for the safety of others, to enter immediate quarantine in Italy. He did not. His stated reason?

The man said he wants people to understand he sneaked back into the United States because he feared for his life. An unsuccessful treatment in Italy would have doomed him, he said, because he said they lacked the expertise.

For crying out loud, we’re talking about Italy. I’d understand the concern if he was in Sierra Leone, or East Timor, or Malaysia, or something, but in Italy? Is Italian health care – or health care in the rest of Europe, for that matter – really that bad compared to health care in the USA?

The sad thing is that this schmuck still doesn’t get it. Here’s the money quote from his interview:

“I’m a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person,” he said. “This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I’ve cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary confinement in Italy thing.”

Personally, I’m glad that there’s a guard there to protect the rest of us from his stupidity. With any luck, we’ll be protected from further exposure to either his disease or his dumbness for as long as necessary.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott Belyea
    May 30, 2007

    For crying out loud, we’re talking about Italy. I’d understand the concern if he was in Sierra Leone, or East Timor, or Malaysia, or something, but in Italy? Is Italian health care – or health care in the rest of Europe, for that matter – really that bad compared to health care in the USA?

    Well, looking from outside the US, I can almost begin to understand this attitude. To be gentle, there is a slight tendency in the US among many (but by no means all) Americans toward believing (and stating) that nowhere else has ever been better than the US in any regard. I make no excuses for the jer … the gentleman in question, but I don’t find this particular attitude tough to (almost) understand.

  2. #2 alwaysalady
    May 30, 2007

    I assume you have all heard of the “Darwin Awards.” These are awards annually given to persons who have through some act of their own stupidity caused their own demise and thereby improved humanity by removing themselves from the gene pool. This gentleman is newly wed and we might presume considering the possibility of having children in the foreseeable future. One can only shudder at the thought.

  3. #3 Hank Roberts
    May 30, 2007

    >newly wed

    And by chance did he spend any time after the wedding in close proximity in a closed room with anyone for more than six hours?

    I hope someone’s tracking his contacts.

    Anyone asked if he believes in evolution?

  4. #4 guthrie
    May 30, 2007

    Evolution does not need to be believed in to work.

  5. #5 Troublesome Frog
    May 31, 2007

    …cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary confinement in Italy thing.

    Maybe I had forgotten some details by the time I reached the bottom of the page, but I’m fairly certain that this is not an accurate statement. In fact, I’m pretty sure that he failed to cooperate on any single thing, much less “everything” other than solitary confinement.

  6. #6 csrster
    May 31, 2007

    “willing to risk infecting an unknown number of strangers in order to have a nice wedding”

    plus, presumably, his family and friends .

  7. #7 raj
    May 31, 2007

    There should be a procedure whereby, after one has been diagnosed with an untreatable disease that is transmitted via airborne vectors, one’s passport is endorsed to prevent at least international air travel. For in-country travel, that can also be done with a similar endorsement on one’s driver’s license and requiring check-in personnel to require presentation of the driver’s license.

  8. #8 Roman Werpachowski
    May 31, 2007

    “or health care in the rest of Europe, for that matter – really that bad compared to health care in the USA?”

    If he were in Poland, I’d almost understand his decision.

  9. #9 Kristjan Wager
    June 1, 2007

    The man said he wants people to understand he sneaked back into the United States because he feared for his life. An unsuccessful treatment in Italy would have doomed him, he said, because he said they lacked the expertise.

    Given Italy’s close proximity to Africa, I’d think that they are actually more experienced with XDR-TB.

    And maybe someone could make clear to him, that everything is not about him and his wishes?

  10. #10 Kat
    June 1, 2007

    Italian healthcare is excellent. And, unlike the USA, they tend not to ask “do you have insurance?” before they treat you.

  11. #11 Pollyanna
    June 1, 2007

    You have a healthy young man, Andrew Speaker, contracting a case of XDR TB, a very rare form of TB, so rare that less than 50 cases have been diagnosed in the US in the last 15 years in a country of 300 million people. This same young man is the son-in-law of Robert Cooksey, a microbiologist at the Centers for Disease Control who, coincidentally, specializes in TB bacteria research. Robert Cooksey says he was fully aware that his soon-to-be son-in-law was infected, yet this expert in the spread of this highly deadly TB did nothing to stop his son-in-law from boarding an international flight with 200 people on it? I’m not buying it. Connect the dots, people.

  12. #12 Hank Roberts
    June 1, 2007

    You are confused about the timing, from the public record anyhow.
    — Have you any report he even told this to his fiancee or her father?
    Remember he’s not exactly smart, from the evidence at hand, about public health.

    — The man had traveled in [unidentified?] countries overseas, where resistant TB is known.
    — The man had a health problem that led to his being checked.
    — He was found to have TB, treated, didn’t respond.
    — The man was advised he had some kind of resistant TB;
    — His doctors told him immediately that they preferred he not travel;
    — He went to Italy anyhow;
    — The extra-rare form was identified _after_ he went to Italy.

    You need to connect the dots in the correct order. Note the times.
    There seems enough stupidity here to explain everything, without an attack by our new bacterial overlords or their evil minions, or an attempt to prevent the marriage, or whatever you’re on at.

  13. #13 William
    June 8, 2007

    Some ‘basic facts’ that Dunford carefully left out of his article:
    1-Mr. Speaker was told by CDC doctors that he was not a risk to fellow travelers.
    2-Mr. Speaker was smart enough to tape-record the doctors saying this.

  14. #14 Ex Patriot
    June 16, 2007

    I am a retired American and have lived in Europe for the past 9 years and contrary to what this jackass thinks I have found the health care and dental care where I live to be equal to or even superior to the U.S. This person not only has a case of TB but a terminal case of stupidity

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