Bringing Ebola To America

Kent Brantly, an American doctor infected with the Ebola virus, has arrived in Atlanta, and Nancy Writebol, an American missionary stricken with the disease, is due to arrive shortly (see here). It’s very unfortunate that these people have become sick and everyone hopes for their recovery, against long odds, but it’s hard to justify bringing either of them back to the U.S.

Yes, the media and the government have trotted out the experts and health officials to dutifully explain that the virus is not easily spread because it is transmitted by direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids rather than through the air. So all is well and good.

Except that the people telling us not to worry are, for all practical purposes, the same as those who brought us, in the last year alone, the debacle, the VA hospital scandal, and more importantly, the mishandling of live anthrax and deadly strains of bird flu by the Centers for Disease Control, resulting in worker exposure (see here).

The recent track record of our government in health matters is not good, but even worse, the liberals who run things today are legitimately characterized by a reluctance to grasp the concept of “unintended consequences.” They truly believe that government need only pass a law or issue an order and everything will come out exactly as envisioned.

Social processes, however, do not proceed so neatly, and it is this liberal attitude that we should fear, not the particular mechanism by which viruses might or might not be transmitted. And who knows what unintended consequences our brilliant leaders are inviting by bringing Ebola needlessly to the U.S.

Bringing Brantly and Writebol back to the U.S. for a higher level of treatment may seem to be the right thing to do, but there are other considerations. Both aid workers engaged in very risky behavior and neither taxpayers nor those who purchase health insurance would normally expect to finance medical care resulting from such behavior.

Friends of Brantly claim he “embraced the risks” of practicing medicine in the developing world. But assuming the risks means you’re on your own and cannot expect the taxpayers or others to foot the bill when things go wrong.

The expense of transporting and treating Brantly and Writebol might be justified as an element of foreign aid provided by the U.S. government. But that only leaves us with the unflattering spectacle of an American foreign aid policy that bails out rich, white Americans when the going gets tough while leaving poor, black Africans to their own devices.

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