By now most of the country and possibly the world knows the story surrounding Kaci Hickox. Many may know her by the moniker of the “Ebola Nurse” from Maine. Hickox is taking a stand against the 21-day voluntary self-quarantine the state has requested of her.
Hickox claims she feels fine and even tested negative for the Ebola virus when placed in quarantine upon her return to the United States. One would think that after testing negative and not showing any symptoms of the virus, that a self-quarantine would not be needed.
However, Ebola does have the US in a sort of panic. The public is nervous about this virus. As such, Maine is trying to be responsible by requesting that Kaci Hickox be under quarantine for an additional 21 days. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) does not support such quarantines given to healthcare workers returning from West Africa. It seems that Maine’s request might be more to allay the fears residents have. For three weeks, to help assuage the fears of the public, Hickox being under quarantine does not seem like such a tall order.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly disagrees with blanket forced quarantine for health care workers returning from Ebola affected countries. Such a measure is not based upon established medical science.
What about the rights Hickox has as a private citizen? If she truly is not a health risk to the general population should she bow to the will of the state and the fears of the public? Ideally the answer is no. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world.
It seems like the heart of this fight would be stronger after the voluntary quarantine period is finished. If Hickox vlogged her days under quarantine giving reasons why she disagrees with it and later works with the state of Maine to find a better solution, her impact might be more significant. She could pioneer an effort of reform while showing the public that she made a sacrifice for the greater good.
Unfortunately, right now many are not in agreement with her refusing the quarantine. The name Kaci Hickox might not be remembered for work with MSF. She will be remembered more as a selfish person who “should have known better” than to put the public at risk. The court of public opinion does not form its opinions on scientific data but rather emotion. People already know that Hickox, via the ACLU, fought her quarantine in New Jersey earlier this week. So public opinion is not likely to improve with another fight against quarantine.
Wouldn’t it be best for Hickox to be thought of with the fondness MSF has for her?
Kaci Hickox has carried out important, lifesaving work for MSF in a number of countries in recent years, and we are proud to have her as a member of our organization.