In a dangerous precedent, Washington state officials will reportedly arrest a woman Friday to undergo forced tuberculosis treatment.
When the government forces a citizen to undergo any treatment or take a biologic agent, it’s a breach of bodily autonomy.
The woman, who’s reportedly from Tacoma, will be arrested unless she voluntarily complies with a court order to resume treatment or quarantine.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department argued before Judge Philip Sorenson to force the woman to comply by taking her medication or isolating herself.
Health officials in Washington state set to arrest a woman with tuberculosis after they said she has been avoiding treatment or isolation for over a year. https://t.co/LpmQSDZTmI
— ABC News (@ABC) March 1, 2023
According to KOMO News, the woman was “under an involuntary isolation order from Dec. 25, 2022, to Feb. 8, 2023.”
Health officials said she started treatment but left isolation before it was complete.
There’s no indication of what type of treatment health officials gave the woman or the conditions of her isolation.
From KOMO News:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the treatment process can take three to nine months. People who end treatment early can also develop antibiotic resistance.
The woman will now be arrested on Friday after Sorenson issued a civil warrant for her arrest. The health department said she will be taken to a specially designated facility at the Pierce County Jail for isolation, testing, and treatment.
However, if the woman complies before Friday, the health department said they may ask the court to lift the arrest warrant. Another court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.
The health department said this case is a rare instance as most people with voluntarily TB seek treatment or isolation. They have worked with her family and community members for more than a year to persuade the woman to take her medication to protect herself and her community.
According to court documents, the health department has filed and was granted court orders over the past year in an attempt to get the woman to isolate and receive treatment for TB. The first order was issued on Jan. 19, 2022.
The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department issued this statement:
At the Health Department, our mission is to protect and improve the health of all people and places in Pierce County. We do that in many ways.
In our Communicable Disease Division, we identify, investigate and limit the spread of diseases. We help people with diseases like HIV/AIDS, whooping cough and tuberculosis (TB) get the care they need. We depend on people working with us to follow public health guidance to prevent the spread of diseases.
People can die from TB if they don’t get treatment. And they can expose other people to unnecessary risk of getting TB.
A recent case of TB in a Tacoma woman is a rare instance where the patient has refused to take the life-saving medication she needs or remain in isolation. We have worked with family and community members for more than a year to do everything we can to persuade this woman to take her medication to protect herself and our community. After 15 court hearings, we are closing in on our last option.
This case is only the third time in the past 20 years the Health Department has had to seek a court order to detain a potentially contagious patient who refused treatment for TB.
Join the conversation!
Please share your thoughts about this article below. We value your opinions, and would love to see you add to the discussion!