Friday, October 03, 2014

Thomas Duncan did what we all would have done

The Liberian President has called Thomas Duncan's decision to leave Liberia for the U.S. "unpardonable." He may face prosecution if he returns to Liberia for lying on the forms he filled out when he left because he falsely stated that he had not had contact with someone who might have had Ebola. And, no doubt, lots of people in the U.S. are not happy with him either.

But would you do anything differently if you were in his situation? When he was asked to fill out that form, Duncan had been exposed to Ebola. He was in a country that is overwhelmed with Ebola cases, where the medical system simply can't cope with controlling the spread of the disease, much less helping people survive it or make them comfortable. Meanwhile, Duncan had a ticket to another country with a much better medical system, a country which is able to treat Ebola so effectively both Ebola patients who were evacuated to that country survived. Duncan probably was aware that if he admitted on that form at the airport that he had contact with someone with Ebola, they never would have let him on that plane--his only realistic route to quality medical care and survival.

I don't know about you, but I would have done exactly what Thomas Duncan did. Any penalty for lying on the form is totally worth it if your survival is at stake. I can't imagine that anyone would have made a different decision in that situation.