What Do You Think of the Nurse in Maine?

kaci hickoxKaci Hickox refused to remain in quarantine after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. She argued the quarantine is a violation of her human rights. I think it is very clear this is less a matter of human rights, and more a matter of someone trying to milk her 15 minutes of fame. As a doctor, I have the Hippocratic Oath as a guide.

“I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.”

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”

Nurses, I believe have something similar in the Florence Nightingale Pledge. Either way, a health care provider knows from experience that sometimes the best medicine is peace of mind. Our country, right or wrong, is in a frenzy over the threat of Ebola, and knowing someone is walking (riding) around the community with even the slightest possibility of spreading a deadly virus, results in terror and panic. One shouldn’t need an oath or a court order to do the right thing. Is three weeks in quarantine a lot to ask? I am sure one could make the argument it is. Personally, I think three weeks in the comfort of your own home, while perhaps causing cabin fever and boredom, isn’t too much to ask, when public safety is the reason.

It surprises me Ms. Hickox, who so unselfishly helped sick people in Africa, couldn’t find it in her heart to lie low for a few weeks to ease the concerns of people in her own community. Do I believe she is putting people at real risk of infection? No. But, it doesn’t matter what I think. What matters is the worry and peace of mind of her neighbors, and while she eloquently stated in a recent press conference she doesn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, this is exactly what she is doing by not making things simple, and just simply, staying at home for a couple weeks.

She seems like a lovely person, and clearly her work in West Africa speaks to her character. Sometimes standing on principle is important. Sometimes it is just self serving. In this case, I think her rail against hanging at home for a couple weeks is misguided. Ebola, as Ms. Hickox knows too well, is a highly contagious, deadly disease. In this case, doing more than is warranted to keep it out of our country, and keeping everyone calm and confident in our ability to contain any risk, should be the priority.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Doctor, mom of five and founder of Tips From Town.


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