SAN FRANCISCO — Armando Rodriguez was warned several times to continue taking his tuberculosis medicine.
At one point, authorities said, he told his case officer he stopped the treatment out of concern for his liver while binging on alcohol and methamphetamine.
SEE ALSO: Donna Summer Dead At 63
So on Tuesday, authorities took the unusual step of arresting Rodriguez and charging him with refusing to comply with a tuberculosis order to be at home at certain times and make appointments to take his medication.
LIKE NewsOne On Facebook To Stay Up On Black News Worldwide!
It’s a move that divides public health officials.
“I think it’s an error to confine someone in the criminal justice system for a public health crime,” said Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University public health law professor who drafted a model law adopted by several states struggling with the issue. “The whole intention is to protect the public’s health. It’s not to lay blame on someone.”
Health officials say Rodriguez, 34, of Stockton has active pulmonary tuberculosis, which can include coughing up blood or phlegm and can spread through the air.
Rodriguez has been noncompliant with his treatment and could become contagious as a result, Ginger Wick, nursing director for San Joaquin County, said in a letter requesting a warrant for Rodriguez’s arrest.
After failing one time to give himself the drugs, Rodriguez told a nurse he had gone on an alcohol binge and taken methamphetamine and didn’t want to hurt his liver, Wick said in her letter.
Rodriguez was arrested Tuesday and is expected to be arraigned Thursday on two misdemeanor counts.
He will likely be appointed a public defender.
Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs. Many people have a latent form, and the active form usually only affects adults whose immune systems are compromised, which can happen from drug use.
Public health experts are divided on the issue of mandatory treatment and criminal charges for patients who don’t comply with treatment orders.