Ebola-Nurse Sues Gov. Chris Christie for “Holding Her Against Her Will”

Ebola-Nurse Sues Gov. Chris Christie for “Holding Her Against Her Will”
Political Health

Kaci Hickox, the nurse forced into quarantine at a Newark hospital last year after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, is suing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his administration, alleging she was held against her will.

The 34-year-old Doctors Without Borders nurse claims in the lawsuit that Christie had “no medical epidemiological or legal grounds to hold me.” [1]

Hickox was originally held at Newark airport after she was tested with a non-contact thermometer which registered a fever. An oral thermometer later used at University Hospital in Newark showed no fever, and Hickox had no symptoms of Ebola.

In a 35-page complaint, filed in the United States District Court of New Jersey, Hickox says she is seeking $250,000 in compensatory and punitive damages – about $2,000 for each hour of the 80 hours she spend in isolation, plus extra for punitive damages. In addition to Christie, the complaint names defendants Mary O’Dowd, the former state health commissioner, as well as Christopher Rinn and Gary Ludwig, two other employees of the state health department.

After being released from the hospital, Hickox returned to her home state of Maine, which also sought to quarantine her, but the nurse won a court order stating that she could move about as she pleased, so long as she submitted to monitoring for Ebola.

Hickox alleges in the lawsuit that the Republican presidential candidate made false statements implying that she showed symptoms of the deadly disease when she knew she hadn’t.

“I never had symptoms of Ebola. I tested negative for Ebola the first night I stayed in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s private prison,” Hickox said in a statement released through the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which is representing her in the lawsuit.

Related: Ebola Outbreak Resulted in Forced Quarantine, Blood Draws, and Arrest

“My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear,” she said. [2]

Hickox also claims in the lawsuit that she followed all Doctors Without Borders infection control policies, including wearing protective gear when coming into contact with patients and keeping a 3-foot distance from individuals suspected of being infected.

She also alleges that she was transported in an ambulance escorted by 8 police cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring. When she arrived, she says she was held in an isolation tent in an unfinished section of the hospital that was cold, thanks to inadequate heating. Hickox states that she had to ask for blankets and was not permitted any contact with the outside world apart from her cell phone, which had poor reception. There was a toilet in the room, but no shower, she alleges.

“I felt completely alone and vulnerable,” Hickox said. “It was really hard. I had a lot of tough moments.”

Hickox stepped out of the hospital after the White House pressured Christie to release her from quarantine. Soon thereafter, it came to light that Hickox was employed by the CDC as an official Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officer, seemingly a public servant, and was listed as an active EIS officer as recently as July 18, 2014. Hickox failed to disclose the association, however in an anti-quarantine column she wrote for the Dallas Morning News. [3]

The CDC adamantly opposed quarantines and travel bans on Ebola-infected nations. [4]

Sources:

[1] NBC News

[2] Forbes

[3] Dallas News

[4] Reuters

Photo credit: AP