Your Rights End Where My *cough*Health*cough* Begins


It’s hard not to think about rights, freedoms and responsibilities after returning from markedly different societies — like Tokyo’s — and a weakened immune system, thanks to some serious jet lag, injects thoughts about public health into the mix. At first it’s a bit disconcerting to see so many Japanese wearing face masks in public. I mean, are they that neurotic about catching germs?

Tokyo Subway Riders

Turns out, no. The majority of masked commuters and pedestrians (and shoppers) happen to be people who’d be mortified to pass along whatever germs they’re carrying. And full disclosure: during the SARS scare(s) in Toronto a few years ago, I worked in a major urban hospital, one which held several SARS patients in its ICU. I shall not pass comment on the questionable decision to share the afflicted between hospitals (and not concentrate the threat in one place), nor shall I comment on the egregious stupidity of some ICU nurses when I witnessed them chucking the chin of an unprotected baby in a stroller steps outside the ICU, when the nature of the disease and its transmission were still very much unknown.

So it was with considerable amusement (and anger) that I read two items from our friends at Consumerist, in which a Continental Airlines pilot ejected a 16-year-old girl, who was coughing uncontrollably, from an international flight. And the followup, featuring the righteous indignation of some commenters. Now, given the worldwide potential for pandemic, and given the nightmare consequences — especially economic, as was seen in Toronto — of such a respiratory disease entering the general populace, the Continental pilot absolutely, unquestionably did the right thing in ejecting the uncontrollably-coughing girl from the flight. The pilot (and airline) is charged with the duty of providing safe passage for the hundreds of passengers aboard a flying fuel tank, and you’d better fucking believe that any serious disease transmission would be met with lawsuits from afflicted passengers.

But what’s particularly infuriating is the ridiculous argument proffered by some Consumerist commenters, that catching a cold — or worse — from a fellow passenger is not all that bad. Fuck that shit. I mean, seriously, do the damned math: for every infected passenger there are sick days taken from work (some not paid, after all), not to mention every person those infected people in turn infect. This cavalier, selfish, pig-ignorant attitude toward the health of the public is a perfect transmission vector for a disease pandemic.

Spending a week or ten days feeling like crap may not be such a big thing for you, but my health is really, honestly not yours to fuck around with.

One Response to “Your Rights End Where My *cough*Health*cough* Begins”

  1. 1 health recipes cooking » Your Rights End Where My *cough*Health*cough* Begins

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