Friday, July 15, 2016

NM victim of bear attack pleads for policy change

The New Mexico state epidemiologist says he has no plans to change a state regulation requiring that wild animals be killed after attacking humans, despite an impassioned plea for leniency by a woman who survived being mauled by a bear. Still wearing a bandage on her arm and stitches over her eye, Karen Williams told the Legislature’s Water and Natural Resources Committee that she wants the state to allow for a case-by-case review on whether wild animals involved in an attack should be euthanized and that patients should decide for themselves whether to take rabies vaccine. “I don’t think any medical doctor has the right to take over a patient’s rights and not tell a patient what is going on, and I’m in the medical field,” said Williams, a critical care nurse. “I was in the bear’s house. I need to take responsibility for myself, and we need to hold people responsible for themselves.” Rather than immediately euthanize an animal to test for rabies, “We should offer the bitten person the choice whether to take the rabies vaccine or not.” But State Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Landen told legislators that the state’s policy is a cautionary one to protect the public from rabies and that the vaccine should be administered only when the offending animal cannot be captured. An animal must be euthanized to test the brain for the virus. “Any wild animal that bites a human should be considered potentially rabid until proven otherwise,” he said. “How do we prove otherwise? You test the animal. How do you test the animal? You euthanize the animal and test the brain.”...more

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