A Washington woman may be arrested Friday after her continued refusal to comply with the state’s mandated treatment and isolation laws regarding her contagious bacterial infection.
On February 24, Judge Philip Sorenson expressed that he had no choice but to move toward the “last possible resort” unless a Tacoma, Washington woman turned herself in. Marking the 16th time the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has had to go to court over the case, according to Fox 13. The decision to issue an arrest warrant followed the unnamed patient’s refusal to receive treatment for tuberculosis for over a year.
Should she fail to turn herself in by Friday, the warrant for her arrest will go into effect in accordance with a nearly 30-year-old state law. While curable with antibiotics, TB is fatal if untreated and results from a bacterial infection. While it can affect the kidneys, spine or brain, as explained by the Mayo Clinic, it most often affects the lungs. Signs of an infection include coughing up blood, fever, chills and fatigue.
“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,” a statement from the health department read.
Prior to the arrest warrant, the patient had been entered into ordered treatment that was scheduled to run from December 25, 2022, to February 8, 2023. She removed herself from that treatment before it could be completed.
“We are always hopeful that a patient will choose voluntary compliance in these situations and get the treatment needed to protect themselves and others,” the health department said. “We will continue to work through the legal process and all options available.”
Since its passage in 1996, RCW 70.28.031 has allowed for forced quarantine or medication if the court deems an individual a health risk to the public. It is specifically written to address TB and while it was used three times in 20 years for that bacterial infection, it was also used in support of forcing draconian COVID policies on the people of Washington.
Similar laws are on the books in 37 other states throughout the country.
Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department spokesperson Nigel Turner contended, “In each case like this, we are constantly balancing risk to the public and the civil liberties of the patient. We are always hopeful a patient will choose to comply voluntarily. Seeking to enforce a court order through a civil arrest warrant is always our last resort.”
The court is expected to hold another hearing on March 2 to finalize how it will proceed in the case and it is believed that, should the patient turn herself over to the authorities before Friday, the arrest warrant would be lifted. Once in custody, the patient will be detained in the Pierce County Jail for a time “not to exceed 45 days to undergo testing and treatment for active Tuberculosis and to continue such treatment until medical tests conclusively establish that she no longer presents a threat to public health, safety and welfare.”
The county reportedly experiences an average of 20 TB cases per year that typically take anywhere from three to nine months to treat.
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