Via Vox.com, an article by Sarah Kliff: The New York Ebola patient is a brave and heroic doctor. Stop criticizing his bowling trip. The conclusion:
We've seen that with the four other Ebola patients in the United States who spent time outside of quarantine. One, Liberian national Thomas Duncan, did so when he was extremely symptomatic. Nobody who came into contact with these patients — not the passengers who rode on a flight with Amber Joy Vinson, nor the family members who cared for Duncan — caught the disease. That's partly because Ebola patients aren't very contagious before they become intensely symptomatic and partly because the disease itself is fairly difficult to spread.
There is no reason to think that Spencer's actions were dangerous. Yes, he was carrying a disease that is very deadly. But at the first sign of his symptoms — the moment he knew he could be contagious — he quarantined.
We need more doctors like Spencer
The organization that Spencer worked with in Guinea, Doctors Without Borders, is doing a heroic service in West Africa right now. It has brought more than 700 medical workers to an area of the world with barely any medical infrastructure to contain the worst-ever Ebola outbreak.
The work Spencer and his colleagues do is physically challenging, emotionally draining, and risky. This is why you hear World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, a doctor himself, declaring Spencer "a hero."
"He went and did the one thing we need to do to stop more cases here and everywhere else," Kim said. "We need to have health workers."
While Doctors Without Borders has developed some of the best protocols for how to protect health workers treating Ebola patients — protocols the CDC used in developing guidelines for American hospitals — they are not foolproof. Twenty-two health workers with the group have become infected; 12 have died.
"Every day we have deaths," Daniel Lucey, an American doctor working with the group, told Bloomberg News of his work in Liberia. "Every morning you get up at 6 a.m., go to sleep at 11 p.m. Meetings in the morning and meetings at night, and you work, work, work until you can't work anymore. Then you get up in the morning and do it again."
Doctors Without Borders, another volunteer physician told Bloomberg, is at "a breaking point." "There's a sense that there's a major wave of infections that's about to wash everything away," the same doctor says.
Now is the exact moment we need more doctors like Spencer to treat patients in West Africa to contain the outbreak there — and stop more cases from coming to the United States. Mandatory quarantines are an unjustified and cruel punishment for doctors who put their lives at risk. Perhaps more to the point, by giving doctors one more reason to avoid treating Ebola patients and stemming the spread of disease, they would end up putting the rest of us at risk, too.