Integrity Matters
June 6, 2007

Attorney with TB takes the 'me-first' attitude

Question: (E-298)

Attorney Andrew Speaker, who ignored medical recommendations that he not travel after being diagnosed with XDR tuberculosis, needlessly exposed innocent people - from Atlanta to London and then from Prague to Montreal. What kind of person behaves like this?


Self-centered and selfish, Andrew Speaker, a 31-year old, Atlanta-based, personal injury attorney, was fully aware of his health risks to others.
He went ahead with his honeymoon plans, flying to Europe knowing he could potentially spread XDR tuberculosis, a horrible drug-resistant disease. Ignoring a second warning, he continued his travels, finally returning across the border from Canada into the United States in an automobile. He is the first person in 40 years to be the subject of a federal quarantine.

Speaker told ABC News that when the Centers for Disease Control contacted him in Rome and told him to cancel his commercial flights back to the United States, he defied their orders, saying he was afraid to pursue medical assistance outside the United States and wanted to be treated by tuberculosis specialists in Denver.

Speaker said he never thought he was sick enough to infect others and said, "I'm very sorry for any grief or pain that I have caused anyone." He also asked forgiveness from his fellow passengers. Speaker told ABC that prior to leaving Atlanta for Paris, on May 12 aboard Air France Flight 385, his doctors had advised him against travel. But they hadn't specifically forbidden it. So, he and his new bride proceeded with their plans.

Self-absorbed individuals are frequently intrusive, insensitive and irritating. However, when their behaviors become irresponsible - endangering other lives - they have violated an unwritten social contract regarding how people should treat one another. Mistakes happen and can be forgiven.

Even ignorance can be tolerated. But, with knowledge of the potential health risk to others, Speaker's arrogant actions border on reckless endangerment. He should expect to be prosecuted. Who would be surprised if his actions were judged as criminal? What are his financial responsibilities to those who shared airspace with him, including on May 24 from Prague, the Czech Republic, to Montreal on Czech Air Flight 0104?

Speaker's recklessness is a wake-up call for me-first individuals. Even if it turns out he did not pose a life-threatening danger to others, his behavior was irresponsible - thoughtless at best, cruel at worst. Needlessly putting others at risk is not the mark of a mature individual.

Disregarding the rights of others is costly, to everyone. Integrity - our social contract with one another - requires respect for the rights of those with whom we live, at all times and in all places.

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