Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Traveling TB patient, selfish or stupid?

Posted by Ed C on Thursday, May 31, 2007

Okay, maybe it’s the heat, the phase of the moon… but every story I read about Andrew Speaker, trial lawyer and world traveler that was diagnosed with tuberculosis and proceeded to travel about Europe and then snuck home to the U.S. via Canada has me banging my head against my desk.

The initial stories would not identify the individual because of the “stigma” associated with TB. A person that after being informed that he had an exceptionally dangerous, contagious disease that was resistant to conventional treatments, intentionally traveled by plane (after being told not to) and via a circuitous route to avoid detection and non-fly lists. A person who actions could have started an epidemic. We don’t want to stigmatize that person?
Not only did he deserve to be identified, his name and picture should go into the history books right along side Typhoid Mary. At least at first, Mary Mallon did not know she was contagious. Don’t pull an Andrew Speaker should be added to the lexicon as an act of pure selfish behavior and shear stupidity, used to shame children into behaving.

His excuse for leaving Rome after he was informed that he was considered especially dangerous – he feared that he would not “survive” if he didn’t reach the U.S. for treatment. He was in Europe and Canada, those bastions of “Universal Heath Care” The same “model” heath care system that Hilliary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards and their ilk want for the rest of us. I suppose the only better place for him to have been would have been Cuba.

I could have probably let it go until today’s story Border Worker Disregarded TB Warning about the border inspector that permitted the infected Andrew Speaker to pass from Canada into the U.S.

The unidentified inspector explained that he was no doctor but that the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely “discretionary

Colleen Kelley, president of the union that represents customs and border agents, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said “public health issues were not receiving adequate attention and training” within the agency.

Discretionary? Adequate attention and training?

Let’s see how hard this is.

Trainer: You pass the passport through this scanner here – and then you read the screen. If it says PASS, you can let the person in. If it says anything else, follow the instructions or notify a supervisor. Here, lets try this sample here…beep. Okay, what does the screen say?



For your protection, anyone dealing with this person should take precautions and wear a protective mask.

Call heath authorities immediately.

Trainer: Okay, what do you do?

Potential Border Inspector: Uh, let him pass?

Trainer: You fired!

Not that hard. Think I’m kidding? He’s the AP account:

The inspector ran Speaker’s passport through a computer, and a warning – including instructions to hold the traveler, don a protective mask in dealing with him, and telephone health authorities – popped up, officials said. About a minute later, Speaker was instead cleared to continue on his journey, according to officials familiar with the records.

And “Inspector Fife” took this as discretionary. If it had been me, “the worker fled with great enthusiasm” would be about the politest thing that would have been written as I went for the nearest face mask and and megaphone to “deal” with Mr. Speaker from a few hundred feet or so.

Just so you feel safer, “The border agent who questioned that person is at present performing administrative duties,” said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke, adding those duties do not include checking people at the land border crossing.” We can only hope that those duties do not include anything other than making sure that the sun continues to rise in the east and sets in the west – anything else may be considered “discretionary.”

If there can be anything good to come from this officials in the U.S. (national and local) and in Europe need to examine every aspect of this case and determine an effective measure that would have stopped Mr Speaker at each step of his journey. With threats like Avian flu, Ebola virus, small pox,… these actions need to be implemented immediately. At each step, identify a weakness, identify a plan to fix it and then implement it. These step can be taken individually and in parallel, while the inevitable blue ribbon panels hold hearings and hash out the details.

When they produce their reports we can look at their recommendations and then make adjustments. But we should not wait for the “Grand Unified Plan” that will cure all ills. It will not exist, or ever be implemented, but having multiple layers of independent checks just might give us a chance.


6 Responses to “Traveling TB patient, selfish or stupid?”

  1. John B. said


    While I’m not completely in your camp on UHC (my wife and I debate the topic all the time), I agree completely with your last few paragraphs. Nice commentary!


  2. Peeved said

    SELFISH! He acted like an over-indulged brat. Look, this guy is apparently intelligent and well-educated. He just wanted to do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it. PERIOD. Now we get the crocodile tears after Mr. Important figures out that HE could be on the business end of one whopper of a liability lawsuit. This is pretty much the definition of irony.

    Further, if he were poor, he’d be in the slammer and getting his meds at the prison infirmary.

  3. Larry said

    Great article. I’m 100% in agreement. What an IDIOT and SELFISH moron. He says he’s “highly intelligent”? My question is why didn’t he wear a mask on the plane? That right there would have saved alot of pain and suffering for the people who happend to unlucky enough to be traveling as well. Has he stopped to think of the years of testing for TB that these people have to endure? And by the way, how much do you think he got paid from Good Morning America (and the many others to follow)? Hopefully Karma’s gonna get him!

  4. Phredy said

    I’m curous about the insane border agent who let him through to the US. He should have been detained right there, when his passport came up as “Do not enter”. WAS HE PAID OFF TO LET HIM THROUGH???? Think about it… Did the “smooth talking personal injury lawyer & his bimbo wife” smooth talk him with legal jargon? That idiot needs to be identified and exposed as well.

  5. Hunter said

    1. He knew he has TB, he knew he was told not to travel back, yet he did it anyway. Selfish or stupid?

    2. Could have postponed the trip, or hired a private airplane (two lawyers’ incomes, and they couldn’t afford it?). He chose to do neither because postponing the wedding or hiring a private plane would be too expensive. Other people’s lives at stake? Who cares! Selfish or stupid?

    3. He took the step to tape the doctor’s comments. Why make the tape if you didn’t intend to use it as a defense later? If you plan on using a taped device to defend your action, then you must subconsciously know your action is not 100% Kosher. Selfish or stupid?

    4. He did nothing wrong, we was very sure of it, yet he took the circuitious route home. Hmmm…. Selfish ot stupid?

  6. efqzlbgvi wvlmk cmfear zjtilogyr jmvhex fucn izjakybgw

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: