Washington judge signs arrest warrant for woman refusing tuberculosis treatment
The county health department says it has gone to court 16 times to get the woman into treatment
A judge in Washington state has signed an arrest warrant for a woman who has been refusing tuberculosis treatment for over a year.
On Thursday afternoon, Judge Philip Sorenson signed a civil arrest warrant, which permits law enforcement authorities to detain the woman starting on Friday in order to get her to a treatment facility to isolate and treat her for tuberculosis, according to KOMO News.
Court documents show that the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department went to the judge last week, stating that it had tried 16 times to get the woman to comply with the judge’s order that she resume taking medication to treat her tuberculosis or isolate herself.
The woman had been placed on an involuntary isolation order to be treated for tuberculosis from December 25, 2022, to February 8, 2023, but is said to have left treatment before it was completed.
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Court records show that the first order of treatment for the woman was issued back in January 2022.
The woman's attorney argued that she had not willfully ignored the court order, because she hadn't undersood the significance of the proceeding, but ultimately the judge declined to alter his order.
"In each case like this, we are constantly balancing risk to the public and the civil liberties of the patient."
"The civil arrest warrant Judge Philip Sorenson issued will authorize law enforcement to detain her on or following Friday, March 3 and take her to a facility equipped for isolation, testing and treatment," the health department posted on Thursday. "We will continue to work through the court and to pursue all our options to protect the community and persuade the patient to voluntarily seek the life-saving treatment she needs."
A spokesperson for the health department said this arrest is only the third time in 20 years that a court order has been needed.
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"In each case like this, we are constantly balancing risk to the public and the civil liberties of the patient," health department spokesperson Nina Turner said.
"Seeking to enforce a court order through a civil arrest warrant is always our last resort."
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Tuberculosis, a preventable and curable but highly infectious disease, killed 526 people in the United States in 2021, according to the CDC.