Friday, June 1, 2007

Sal's Place: Medical Torture!

I was disheartened to read an Associated Press story which was published on April 25 entitled “Locked up TB patient is unable to testify”. The story opened with “A tuberculosis patient locked up for nine months and under quarantine inside a Phoenix hospital jail ward will continue to be held under the same conditions, a judge ruled Tuesday.”

At first I thought the government was protecting people from a TB outbreak by holding Robert Daniels, a 27 year old man with drug resistant TB, who came to the United States from Russia in the hopes of receiving better care for his TB. Then I read that Daniels has not been allowed to shower for nearly nine months, has not been outdoors, and has been denied a television and other items even common prisoners are entitled to. He has been held against his will for nearly nine months!

Dan Pochoda, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, was said to accuse the government of treating a sick man like a criminal. Most criminals who are jailed are allowed daily showers, television time, and a phone call. Daniels has been denied all of these and is not allowed to turn the lights out when he sleeps. What purpose could that serve?

It serves the purpose of punishment. His crime is being a public safety threat. County health officials accused Daniel of being dishonest and view him as a health threat because he forgot to bring a mask when he went to the store and missed a dose of his medication. Even the best intentioned people have occasionally forgot a dose of medicine. Most prescription drug labels have instructions explaining what to do when a dose is missed. MCSers who have reactions to environmental contaminants have been known to forget a mask when going out. It’s human nature to occasionally forget. What makes Daniels so different? Daniels is being subjected to medical imprisonment on the basis of a physical illness through no fault of his own. If this is allowed to continue, nearly every American could be subject to being jailed and tortured for having any contagious medical condition. Will Daniels case set a precedence for medial torture of anyone with a contagious illness or disease?

It’s true that Daniels should not be out and about in the community infecting others; however, he should be held in comfort, decency, and respect. He did not choose to contract TB any more than any one of us chooses to contract the flu. People have died from complications of the flu, yet the government does not jail those who contract the flu. It was not a bad choice that he made that caused his infection. He may have simply eaten a meal that was prepared by a chef who was infected.

I imagine Daniels is distraught and frantic over being so ill. He has a wife and child back in Russia whom are likely dependent on his support.. While he is accused of exhibiting anger in his reactions to health personnel, his reaction is natural in his oppressed condition. What reassurance do the rest of us have that we will not be the next person signed up for medical torture? Could we be tortured and refused a shower? Daniels is still a human being. He deserves better!

About the Author
Lourdes Salvador is a writer and social advocate based in Hawaii. She is a passionate advocate for the homeless, having worked with her local governor to open new shelters and provide services to the homeless in a new approach to end homelessness. That passion soon turned to advocacy and activism for victims of multiple chemical sensitivity. Since 2006, she has been the president of
MCS America and a featured monthly writer for MCS America News. She co-founded MCS Awareness in 2005. She also serves as Partner, Environmental Education Week and Partner, Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE). For more information about Lourdes and her advocacy work, please visit:,, and

Copyrighted © 2007 Lourdes Salvador

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