Are Americans Exposed to Ebola Morally Obligated to be Quarantined?


“US Nurse released from Ebola Quarantine calls conditions ‘Inhumane'”, so wrote The Christian Science Monitor:

A nurse who worked in West Africa with Ebola patients and was quarantined at a New Jersey hospital over the weekend was returning home to Maine on Monday as her lawyer criticized the state’s policies that had her fighting to be released from an isolation tent.

Health officials said Saturday that nurse Kaci Hickox tested negative for Ebola. Hickox left a hospital Monday afternoon, to be taken to Maine, where she lives.

Hickox called her treatment “inhumane” and “completely unacceptable” after she became the first person forced into New Jersey’s mandatory quarantine, announced Friday by Gov. Chris Christie for people arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport from three West African countries.

Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, took a firm stand in seeking to preserve life and health of the citizens within his state:

“If people are symptomatic they go into the hospital. If they live in New Jersey, they get quarantined at home. If they don’t, and they’re not symptomatic, then we set up quarantine for them out of state. But if they are symptomatic, they’re going to the hospital.”

Albert Mohler navigates the moral minefield full of explosive ethical questions of governmental authority, personal liberty, life sanctity, and brotherly responsibility:

This raises a huge question, when do our individual rights become limited by the public good? When does someone who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus find that individual rights of mobility and freedom are conscribed by the necessity of at least some defined period of a quarantine.

We’re looking here at one of the oldest questions of modern democracy: how in the world do you manage the balance between individual liberty and the common good? But we’re also looking at something that is even more sinister, we’re looking at something that should actually concern us a great deal. We’re looking at the fact that we have so now committed ourselves as a society to an unbridled and unfettered notion of human rights that the idea of an involuntary quarantine seems to sound many Americans like a prison sentence rather than as a matter of natural precautions for public health. In other words, we’ve now reached the point that our rights talk has so infected our moral discourse that most Americans, or least many Americans, find themselves unable to defend a common sense policy. It’s also interesting that the federal government is opposing the two governors in this action. And it’s the federal government, including the White House, putting pressure on them to rescind and reverse their decision; not because it doesn’t make public health sense but because of its symbolism – it might scare the nation.

And furthermore, they’re saying that it just might be something that would dissuade doctors and other medical personnel from going to West Africa. That’s where public health rationality seems to come in to play in order to save this: ‘we desperately need medical doctors and medical professionals to go to West Africa, there is a crisis there, there is a contagion there, and there is a plague there.’ But having gone and risked one’s life, it seems like a very small thing than to forfeit the kind of personal freedom we all take for granted just for 21 days upon return in order to make certain that one does not spread that contagion here at home.

John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

About savedbygrace1976

Mark Chanski (author of Manly Dominion; Womanly Dominion; and Encouragement: Adrenaline for the Soul) has labored as a full-time Pastor since 1986 in churches in Ohio and Michigan. He has been Pastor of Harbor Church in Holland, Michigan, since 1994. He has also been elected as Coordinator of the Reformed Baptist Network. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Cornerstone University, and a Master of Divinity degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He teaches Hermeneutics for the Reformed Baptist Seminary in Sacramento, CA. Mark is married to his wife Dianne, and has fathered their four sons and one daughter, whose ages stretch from 36 to 26 (born 1983 to 1994).
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