Judge issues warrant for tuberculosis patient refusing treatment

A Washington judge has issued a civil arrest order for a woman with tuberculosis who has refused to isolate or receive treatment for more than a year, local health officials said in a March 3 update. 

On Feb. 24, health officials at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department took the case to court for the 16th time, Nigel Turner, the department's director of communicable disease control, said in a statement. 

"We have worked with family and community members for more than a year to do everything we can do to persuade this woman to take her medication and to protect herself and our community," Mr. Turner said. 

"As a last possible resort, Judge Philip Sorenson found the woman with TB in civil contempt for refusing to comply with his order that she either resume taking her medication or voluntarily isolate herself. He issued a warrant for civil arrest by law enforcement on or following Friday, March 3, for the woman to be taken to a specially designated facility at the Pierce County Jail for isolation, testing and treatment," Mr. Turner said. 

A spokesperson for the Pierce County Sheriff's Department told The Washington Post the woman had not been detained as of March 4. 

The situation represents a "rare instance" in which a patient has refused to comply with treatment protocols or remain in isolation, according to health officials. Under Washington state law, public health authorities may take legal action when a person's treatment refusals pose a threat to the public. In the past two decades, the department has sought court orders to detain three people who refused tuberculosis treatment, according to Mr. Turner. 

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