Oppose Kansas Bill Enabling Quarantine

quarantine

Target: Kansas governor Sam Brownback

Goal: Strike down Kansas bill allowing quarantine of people with infectious diseases

The state of Kansas has proposed a bill that would allow quarantining of people with infectious diseases. The bill has been passed by Kansas’ House and Senate, and could potentially be passed within the next few weeks.

The bill is actually designed to allow immediate testing of patients’ blood if a healthcare worker is exposed to it. As things stand, tests can only be required by court order. But a provision in the bill allows people with infectious diseases to “have their movements restricted.”

The bill also attempts to overturn a 1988 Kansas law prohibiting quarantine of people with the HIV virus. Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare foundation, decries the bill, saying that by including HIV in this bill the legislators are going back to the “earliest, darkest days” of the AIDS epidemic.

Kansas Senator Marci Francisco tried to amend the bill to exempt people with HIV/AIDS, since it isn’t spread by casual contact like tuberculosis and other infectious diseases are. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials disapproved of the exemption, but a vague provision was later added to the bill that states the quarantines should be “medically necessary and reasonable.”

There are few legal specifications in place about the rights of quarantined people, which means that it’s difficult to determine what their living situations would be. And even if quarantines are not implemented, the law is likely to result in discrimination against infected people.

While it is a good idea to pass the part of the bill requiring patient blood tests to protect healthcare workers, the quarantine part of the bill is infringing upon human rights. Please urge Kansas governor Sam Brownback to advocate for the removal of the quarantine provision of this bill.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Brownback,

We would like to ask you to take a position against the amendment in House Bill 2183 that allows quarantine of people with infectious diseases. While the law was designed to immediately test patients for disease in the case of healthcare workers being exposed to their blood, the quarantine provision is infringing upon human rights.

HIV advocates are especially concerned about this bill, because it enables legislators to discriminate against them. While we appreciate the provision that states quarantines should be “medically necessary and reasonable,” the wording is still too vague. Kansas has prohibited quarantine of HIV patients since 1988. HIV is not spread through casual contact, so quarantine is not only cruel but medically unnecessary.

English judge William Blackstone said it’s “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Quarantine is similar. Blackstone would likely argue that it’s better to let the disease be in the open than to lock the sufferer up. And so do we.

We would like to remove the quarantine provision entirely, but the portion about quarantining people with HIV is especially unwarranted. Please advocate for the removal of the quarantine statute, and encourage other legislators to do the same.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Paul Downey via Flickr

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