Court orders TB patient jailed

Last Updated Wed, 22 Jun 2005 18:48:51 EDT
CBC News

A court in Ottawa has ordered a man with a highly infectious form of tuberculosis to be held in custody while doctors treat him.

Abdullahi Fourreh, who is from Ethiopia, has consistently resisted treatment, claiming the drugs used to treat the disease are killing him.

But public health officials say he's already infected one person and they intend to cure him whether he likes it or not.

Doctors tried three different drug therapies on Fourreh in an attempt to reduce the side-effects. Each time Fourreh quit, finally deciding that his doctors were "assassins" and "men without souls."

He also convinced himself that his tuberculosis wasn't that much of a threat, says his lawyer Kevin Murphy.

"TB, as he put it, grows like weeds in Eastern Africa, and I think he was suggesting there was some innate alternative way of fighting off the disease, like overcoming a case of the flu," said Murphy.

Public health officials didn't see it that way. Pulmonary tuberculosis, which can be spread by coughing, is the most contagious strain of the disease. Ottawa assistant medical officer of health David Salisbury won the court order detaining Fourreh in Toronto.

"We will need to know that he is no longer infectious and is compliant with a treatment regimen that ensures that eventually he will be cured of this disease," said Salisbury.

Murphy says his client now has few options but to take the drugs his doctors prescribe him, or sit in jail indefinitely.