October 08, 2014

Thomas Eric Duncan Has Died

It is easy to despise the man who lied to authorities and in so doing, knowingly brought Ebola to our shores. However, it bears remembering that he was infected by an act of selflessness. Duncan helped carry his landlords stricken daughter as her desperate father went from hospital to hospital trying to get her medical help. 

There were no beds available at any hospital. No one could see her. 

She died that night. 

Duncan then was confronted with the fact that there was no way to get treatment in his country and he had just been exposed. At the same time, there was, no doubt, still in the Liberian press, news of the recovery of both missionaries who had been transported to the US for treatment. 

So, surrounded by death and a condemned man, Duncan took a chance. Because he had connections here and Liberia is a nation whose history is closely linked to ours, it is easy to get passage from there to here. Duncan came to the US and at the first sign of illness checked himself into a hospital where he explained his background. 

They told him he was clear, gave him antibiotics and sent him home. 

Why did he not get a second opinion?

That which we most desperately want to believe, we often believe. 

I can only speculate, but I imagine that Duncan, having been "cleared" by American doctors, allowed himself to believe for a few joyous days that he had dodged the bullet, the sheer elation would have made his symptoms seem to pass...until the cruel truth was made undeniable by stabbing pains and the blood that vomited forth from his mouth. 

Thomas Eric Duncan died in a most dreadful fashion at 07:51 this morning. Given that his actions have greatly endangered many who would not otherwise been at risk, he is certainly open to criticism. However, it is probably advisable to pause and reflect while denouncing this desperate man's actions. I say this not simply because of the charitable manner in which he became infected, nor out of empathy for the terror he must have felt in the hell-hole that Monrovia now is. 

I say this because he can teach an important lesson to those of us not too arrogant to learn from his mistake. Disbelieving terrifying truths or denying facts we find dreadfully unfair are types of self delusion that do not confine themselves to Fed Ex drivers from Africa.  Such wishful thinking can spread death amongst many, no matter the social status or education of the willfully deluded.

That judge mentioned in the linked piece, no doubt thought he was being decent and kind by not treating the family as unclean, that it was unfair that they, through no fault of their own could be infected and despicable that they be treated as plague carriers.
The problem is that they are almost certainly infected, this bug is extremely contagious in confined spaces, quarantine for the incubation period is the only rational option and the judge has endangered not just himself but his coworkers and his daughter.

Thomas Eric Duncan did an awful thing and endangered many for perfectly human (though not really justifiable) reasons.  Rather than simply cursing the man, we should learn from and endeavor to not repeat his mistakes. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 02:32 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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1 This is probably the most even-handed and rational thing I've seen written about this.

Posted by: Mauser at Thu Oct 9 05:09:29 2014 (TJ7ih)

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