Armando Rodriguez, 34, of Stockton, California was arrested and ordered to spend time in jail this week when he refused to take medication that would keep his pulmonary tuberculosis from becoming contagious. The disease includes symptoms such as coughing up blood and phlegm which can ultimately lead to death. Pulmonary Tuberculosis can spread through airborne particles.
The arrest was made after Ginger Wick, a nursing director for San Joaquin County sent a letter requesting a warrant when the patient refused to be treated.
According to the warrant request letter, Rodriguez had told Wick that he was on an alcohol binge and taken meth, he believed also taking the tuberculosis drug would hurt his liver.
Following his arrest on Tuesday Rodriquez will be charged with two misdemeanor counts of refusing to comply with a tuberculosis order.
While many people will contract a latent form of tuberculosis, the active form typically only affects adults who abuse drugs or have a compromised immune system.
While the disease can spread through airborne particles members of the health community have argued for years over whether refusing treatment should lead to criminal charges. Georgetown University public health law professor Lawrence Gostin told the Associated Press:
“I think it’s an error to confine someone in the criminal justice system for a public health crime. The whole intention is to protect the public’s health. It’s not to lay blame on someone.”
Opponents of the criminal charges suggest that incentives should instead be given such as free transportation to treatment centers.
In the meantime laws preventing the spreading of tuberculosis have been in place for more than a century according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Tuberculosis while closely monitored still manages to inflict upwards of 12,0000 new patients each year while California witnessed 2,317 new cases in 2011, the states lowest point since record keeping began for the bacterial disease.
Drug resistant strains of the disease have emerged in the last several years, causing bigger headaches for health care professionals.