ACLU Launches Lawsuit to Support Tuberculosis


ACRU Staff


June 1, 2007

I swear I’m not making this up. The Tucson Citizen carries the following AP report:

ACLU says Maricopa violating TB patient’s rights

The Associated Press

“The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit claiming Maricopa County officials have violated the rights of a quarantined tuberculosis patient for months by treating him like a criminal.

“The U.S. District Court complaint filed Wednesday on behalf of Robert Daniels alleges that health officials and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have violated numerous constitutional rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The suit seeks what it calls appropriate accommodations for Daniels, rather than severe and “inhumane” jail conditions.

“‘It’s good news for me,’ Daniels said Wednesday evening. ‘I finally have a chance to get out of this black hole.’

“Robert England, the county’s tuberculosis control officer, declined comment.

“Daniels, 27, is under a court order and has been isolated in a jail ward at Maricopa Medical Center for 10 months, although he was not convicted or charged with any crime.”

Now it’s true that the ACLU is not litigating in favor of tuberculosis per se. It has not sought injunctive relief for the germs. Even the ACLU probably still recognizes that germs lack standing, and, even with standing, would not make the most sympathetic plaintiff class you ever saw. Nonetheless, with the overwrought characterizaion of mandatory quarantine as more-or-less of a dungeon, the ACLU walks right up to the line of suing for Mr. Daniels’ “right” to have an increased opportunity to spread the disease. This “right” is apparently located in the Constitution, although the story fails to state in which part of the Constitution, exactly, the ACLU believes it is to be found.

At the time the Constitution was written, of course, quarantine was practiced far more frequently than it is today, and was enforced more harshly. Part of this was doubtless due to the medical necessity of the time, which has changed considerably since. But part of it was also due to the recognition by sensible people that the rights of the many to avoid exposure to a serious and sometimes fatal disease outweigh the rights of the few — or in this case a single person — to his freedom, at least until the danger of widespread infection has passed.

Thus, while this story of the ACLU’s litigation priorities may be extreme — at least I hope it is — it is, unfortunately, emblematic of that organization’s habitual inclination to put the supposed “rights” of the minority ahead of the well-being of the majority.

In that regard, there is one fact the story neglects to mention. Mr. Daniels previously violated a less onerous quarantine order when he went out in public without his facemask. So it’s not as if Mr. Daniels is without a significant degree of responsibility for his present restraint.

Germs are just germs. They don’t know about responsibility, and they don’t make choices. Mr. Daniels did. And now, so has the ACLU.



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