April 30, 2009

Attorney Sues CDC For Invasion Of Privacy During TB Scare

The Atlanta attorney at the center of an international health scare in 2007 is suing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for invasion of privacy.

Andrew Speaker, a plaintiff's attorney, got worldwide attention in 2007 after flying to Europe for a wedding with full knowledge that he had contracted what was initially thought to be a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis known as XDR-TB.

Despite being warned not to board another international flight from health officials, Speaker flew to Montreal and drove across the American border.

He then became the first American since 1963 to be quarantined by the federal government, and was treated in a Denver hospital. It was in this hospital that health officials found that he had a less severe strain of the disease. 

Andrew Speaker claims that federal officials were aware that he was infected with the potentially deadly lung disease before he ever left and simply advised him to begin treatment upon his return. However once he arrived overseas, doctors pushed him to return, believing him to have contracted a more serious strain of the disease.

In the lawsuit, Speaker claims the CDC officials put him in a trap by permitting him to leave and then pinning him with the blame.

In a telephone interview Speaker states, "The whole point of the lawsuit describes how the CDC knew I had TB before I left...All the sudden, I get over there and they hold this big press conference."

In the lawsuit filed in Atlanta federal court on Tuesday, Speaker claims that the CDC unlawfully subjected him to public contempt making him the target of death threats due to the release of his private information. He is also suing for an unspecified amount for damages and court fees and claims that his new marriage was unable to survive the strain of the situation.

The lawsuit accuses the CDC of "unlawfully and unnecessarily" disclosing private medical history and sensitive information during a pervasive onslaught of media attention in May 2007.

The lawsuit also requests that the records of his test results to be relinquished by the CDC under the Freedom of Information Act. Speaker believes that this information will set the record straight.

CDC spokesman Tom Skinner opted not to comment saying, "We are not in a position to have anything to say about pending litigation."


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