Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

In this COVID death situation was it murder or suicide?

Asked by JLeslie (61535points) 1 month ago
51 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

This is a true story where I live.

The setting is a workplace with 35 employees. A real life friend of mine works there.

Three weeks ago an employee was coughing up a storm. My friend emailed the woman’s boss saying basically, WTF?! The boss replied she was going to tell the staff member to go home.

15 out of the 35 employees caught her COVID. Basically, a superspreader. One woman died.

The woman who died was not vaccinated. Did the coughing employee kill her, or did the dead woman commit suicide by not getting vaccinated?

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Mimishu1995's avatar

The coughing employee killed her, no doubt. But was that murder? Unless it’s proven that she intentionally went around to spread the virus, then I don’t think that’s classified as murder.

Did the dead woman commit suicide? Hard to say. In order to judge something as a suicide we must know if she had an intention to die. She could just be one of those anti-vaxxers, or she just hadn’t got access to the vaccine yet for some reason.

JLeslie's avatar

@Mimishu1995 She has had easy access to the vaccine since May. She was 47. Every drug store and supermarket here you can make an appointment or just walk in and get the shot. She wasn’t against the vaccine from what she told my friend, she just hasn’t done it. A lot of the people in the office were not vaccinated. My friend and his office mate were vaccinated, but they both got sick.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The first legal case that successfully prosecutes the original spreader for something like aggravated assault, negligence, murder, etc. will change the whole dynamic of compliance. Further if people got together and brought a civil claim for lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. against the spreader there would be real consequences for acting irresponsibly.
Maybe her death will encourage others to get vaxxed. Her story with facts, names, dates needs to be spread as fast as the disinformation peddlers work.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@JLeslie Did she show any sign that she was tired of life and wanted to leave this world? That is the definite proof for suicide. In circumstances when it’s obvious that a person goes out to take their life like sleeping pill overdose or jumping from a high place, we can conclude from the action. But for less obvious situation like this, we need more proof other than just a person dying.

And I don’t take her word for it. She could be an anti-vaxxer and hide in the shadow for fear of being ridiculed. I know some people like that here. Or she simply thought she could “do it later”, when she had time.

rebbel's avatar

“Three weeks ago an employee was coughing up a storm. My friend emailed the woman’s boss saying basically, WTF?!”

Meaning she was coughing very much?
(Maybe coughing up a storm is idiom that I don’t get?)

Basically WTF what?
What does WTF mean here?
Referring to what?

canidmajor's avatar

@rebbel “Coughing up a storm” is a fairly common idiom, meanining “coughing excessively “. Something to add to your lexicon!
WTF is short for “What The Fuck”.

@JLeslie, Both “murder” and “suicide” are defined by specific intent, so no.

rebbel's avatar

@canidmajor Indeed I will add that one.
Thank you!
I know what WTF means, but not in this case.
WTF what?
In my understanding it can refer to so many things here…
I’d like to know to what.

Did the cougher know that she was positive?
Did she cough in her elbow, or in people’s faces?
Did the colleagues know that she was positive (if she was)?

If this was murder (based on these minimal facts) then the world is now crawling with mass murderers.

janbb's avatar

I go with neither too. Terrible but not murder or suicide.

JLeslie's avatar

I wasn’t being completely literal about the words murder or suicide. I never thought there was intent, but I do think there was negligence, or at least carelessness and stupidity. The managers are culpable in my opinion also. They didn’t tell her to leave immediately. The office is very busy with work, I’m sure they didn’t want to be down a person, but instead they wound up down 15 for around two weeks each.

@LuckyGuy I doubt anything will be done with this particular group of people, but the office refers to her as patient zero.

@rebbel What the fuck was she doing coming into the office coughing when COVID is out there circulating. Florida, USA, where I live is exploding with cases. Nobody actively sick with any symptom should be going to work, they should be getting a covid test. Our positivity rate is around 20%.

Mimishu1995's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, I would agree with negligence and incompetence. It’s just that I don’t think murder or suicide is the right word for this situation.

JLeslie's avatar

I’ll add this workplace didn’t wear masks, except my friend did/does when he is outside of his office space in the common areas. If everyone had worn masks in the common areas probably much fewer people would have become sick.

Since I have always had little tolerance for people going to work sick with anything, this really is beyond horrible to me considering the covid situation here.

rebbel's avatar

So you know for a fact that this person felt sick (also you know for a fact that she felt sick the day before the cough incident?), and came to work, knowing it, and the dangers of that decision?
I’m asking because I feel that there’s some assumption going on?

JLeslie's avatar

We know for a fact she walked into work coughing the day she was sent home, and was not sent home right away.

We know for a fact she was likely contagious the day before, because most people are 1–2 days before, like pretty much every contagious virus, but she might not have felt sick yet. If she didn’t feel sick then we can’t blame her for that.

Most people feel some sort of tickle before the more severe symptoms start.

rebbel's avatar

Like, she got out of her car, coughing, walked to the building, coughing, went to her cubicle, coughing?

I’m asking so specifically because she could be charged with murder.
For all we know she hadn’t coughed in months, and the cough storm was a one-off.
(We now know that it was laden with Covid, but we (and the judge) didn’t one second after the storm had laid down).

JLeslie's avatar

My point about the day before is Some people might have already been infected by her the day before when she was still feeling fine, so we can’t hold her culpable if people became sick that day. I’m defending patient zero in that circumstance.

Not a one off. Constant coughing for over an hour. She might have been coughing all morning before driving into work, but I don’t know.

JLeslie's avatar

@rebbel Enough coughing that my friend finally sent the email and management sent the woman to get tested and go home. We don’t have to guess that it was an unusual amount of coughing, their actions tell everything.

rebbel's avatar


I’m being a bit pesky, on purpose, because we are talking about, potential, murder cases.
Mass murder, to be specific.
I saw that you didn’t mean the words murder and suicide so literal.

Anyway, whenever people don’t know that they are positive/sick, or the coughees don’t know the cougher is, we can’t talk about murder and suicide.
In my opinion.

JLeslie's avatar

@rebbel I’m not talking about an actual murder case. I meant it more like an expression. I should have been more clear I was using the words loosely.

Although, I do think people could be sued as @LuckyGuy said above.

chyna's avatar

Too many assumptions here. You state that “you know for a FACT that she had it the day before.” How does anyone know that someone else might have had a case without any symptoms and passed it around? You don’t. This is like the Salem witch trials. That poor woman is now being ostracized by her co workers as patient zero without 100 percent evidence. Good thing she can’t be hanged for her perceived misdeeds.

JLeslie's avatar

@chyna The day before doesn’t matter. We don’t know if she was symptomatic or not. We can bet she was likely contagious though. That’s not her fault if she felt fine.

Not ostracized, but talked behind her back with what’s obvious. She came in the office hacking away.

chyna's avatar

@JLeslie You are the one who mentioned that “you know for a fact she had it the day before.”
And talking behind someone’s back because she is sick is so pathetic.
Those co-workers are evil little shits. One of them may have given Covid to her.

JLeslie's avatar

They may have given it to her, but just like I don’t fault her if she was asymptomatic I wouldn’t fault them. She was COUGHING. Coughing enough that she was sent to get a test.

They won’t hold anything against her, because most of them have been cavalier about covid. Like I said many weren’t even vaccinated.

She knows she came in sick, when no one is supposed to come in sick, they are supposed to get tested. With a cough, a classic sign of covid. So, she knows she did that and 15 people got sick and one died, BUT the person who died was high risk and not vaccinated, so that’s on her.

canidmajor's avatar

@JLeslie Your last sentence is ambiguous. Do you mean by “…so that’s on her” that it is the fault of the one who died or the one who was sick?

It’s a tragedy caused by ignorance, the assigning of fault and blame here is egregious.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor It’s on the one who died that she didn’t get vaccinated. She might have lived.

janbb's avatar

If I were going to assign blame, I would assign it mainly to your asinine governor who is using the banning of mask mandates and mandatory vaccinations to score political points. I hope it comes to bite him in the ass because children are dying unnecessarily on his watch.

raum's avatar

At best, involuntary manslaughter. Though unlikely.

raum's avatar

Also, not suicide.
Just dumb.

Like not wearing a seatbelt.
And getting into a car accident.

raum's avatar

Though I wonder if the teacher in Marin would have been charged with anything had any of the students died.

- unvaccinated
– came to work symptomatic
– unmasked inside classroom

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb Anyone who wants to wear a mask can. Many workplaces require masks in common areas of the office. My husband’s company does. His company is in Nashville where the governor is a piece of work also. His company gave every employee a package of ten KN95 masks and must be worn from the time you leave your car to walk to the building.

I’m not excusing my governor, but people can take some responsibility to do the right thing.

The blue counties in FL never listened to the governor, they put mask mandates in the schools. All last year blue counties had mask orders with the governors support. The problem is leaders like my Governor; ALL leaders like him. The entire country comes to FL and brings their covid.

I hope DeSantis’ lunacy about school masks and not allowing cruise ships to require vaccination bites him in the ass too. Mayor Suárez (Republican) came out against the governor on both things. Miami-Dade is majority blue, but has those Republican Latin Americans who are very important voters.

JLeslie's avatar

@janbb Regarding the children, it upsets me too that they aren’t more protected, but that’s not just a Florida thing. Last I read there were 358 deaths of children since the beginning, it might be a little higher now. No-maskers and anti-vaccine people probably won’t care, because it’s not much different than flu numbers. I think we should care about covid and flu deaths.

Inspired_2write's avatar

That manager is responsible for not making the employees work in a safe place ..masks required etc
Plus those that observed that person coughing, shoul had put a mask on immediately and perhaps others would too?
Could had prevented others from getting sick as well.

canidmajor's avatar

Aw, geez, this is about misinformation and ignorance. Blaming this person or that on the small scale is just stupid.

The governor, who was voted into office by the majority, and therefore likely trusted by the majority, has made a mockery of any remediation protocols, blame him if you want.

It’s not the dead woman’s fault (I don’t care what she was wearing, she wasn’t “asking for it”), as she was working with what she thought was the best information. Same with the coughing person, the office manager, and all. If they truly believe it’s no big deal, then sitting on the sidelines passing down judgement is just silly.

This is how rapists get off, how domestic abusers are allowed to continue, how atrocities are allowed to go on.

I can’t begin to imagine the depth of guilt and remorse the coughing person must feel now.

And I’m out.

Zaku's avatar

It’s neither murder nor suicide, but it might be reckless endangerment, and it’s certainly foolish or at least inconsiderate and needless.

I think it and the many thousands of other deaths like it are cause enough to say that the people discouraging social distancing and vaccination measures for political reasons are largely responsible for many of those deaths, and should be shut down and held accountable.

The only reason there are so many idiots not taking recommended measures, is because politically-and-financially-motivated politicians and pundits have been inciting idiotic and death-causing resistance to taking those measures. If they didn’t spout that nonsense on TV/radio/Internet, thousands would still be alive and the disease situation would be much better.

gorillapaws's avatar

If someone is extremely intoxicated and driving down the interstate (without the intent of hitting anyone), and another person walks into the road without the intent of being hit, and the drunk driver hits and kills the pedestrian, is it murder? suicide?

The drunk driver certainly deserves vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment and driving while intoxicated charges. Likewise the pedestrian isn’t without culpability in their own demise through sheer stupidity. Suicide requires intent though.

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws Good analogy. The driver would go to jail most likely.

I don’t think the coughing employee deserves jail or to even be sued, but It’s still a good analogy.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie “I don’t think the coughing employee deserves jail or to even be sued”

I do, for the same reason the intoxicated driver deserves jail. Why doesn’t the coughing employee deserve to be held accountable for putting all of their coworkers in mortal danger—and actually killing one?

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws You would probably have to jail thousands of people. I’ve been angry any time a sick employee comes into work for my entire working life, so it’s not hard to get me on your side. Since I’ve been sensitive about it forever, I’ve also accepted other people don’t think about it or care.

There was a Q talking about sick people on planes and some jellies seemed to defend getting on the plane. They were not referring to covid. “Just a cold” or whatever else. My comment to that is at least wear a mask! I want that basic change. If people feel under the weather at least wear a mask.

raum's avatar

It’s a hard call.

People are shedding before they are symptomatic. So it’s entirely possible that she could have spread it before she even started coughing.

Though coughing increases aerosol spread. There’s negligence on her part for coming in. The manager for not sending her home immediately. And higher up to company owners for not having policy to mask indoors or other preventative measures.

Though you can’t tie the spread to the days that she came in coughing, versus the days before where she was asymptomatic and didn’t know.

I have to agree with @rebbel that I’d have to know more around the circumstances of her coughing.

Was she coughing before coming into work? Was she coughing in the car on the way to work? Was it a random one-off coughing fit?

JLeslie's avatar

@raum Yeah, that was my point too re being sick the day before. She likely infected some people the day before, and possibly had zero symptoms at the time.

raum's avatar

If she unknowingly infected others while asymptomatic, I would feel sympathetic for her.

Unknowingly infecting others is probably my biggest fear around covid.

But the fact that she came in to work symptomatic, makes me change “unknowingly” to “carelessly”, which makes me less sympathetic.

Kind of like if someone accidentally hit a pedestrian because their car malfunctioned, I would feel bad for them.

But if they knew their car was malfunctioning and continued to drive it. And accidentally hit a pedestrian. Less sympathy.

Jeruba's avatar

Aside to @rebbel: The idiom is ”(verb) up a storm,” not particularly coughing, so we don’t ordinarily say “a cough storm,” although it’s a perfectly apt metaphor. A common expression is “cook(ing) up a storm,” as you might do on the eve of a holiday feast. You can talk up a storm, dance up a storm, even pray up a storm (as I have heard some campmeeting preachers do). It just means doing something with a lot, even an excess, of energy, enthusiasm, etc.—basically a metaphorical superlative.

Forever_Free's avatar

There is nothing here that can legally substantiate either premise.
The workplace was not liable either.
I however feel strongly against any workplace or government official who has not taken anything but a strong line towards doing the safest think possible.
I would also take a strong stance if my employer forced me to come into the office without proper measures or giving me the choice. I value my life over a workplace that does not have it’s employees safety in mind.

Jeruba's avatar

@Forever_Free, I think you mean “who has taken anything but a strong line” (i.e., who has not taken a strong line). Right? Or else I don’t understand what you’re saying. Too many criss-crossing negatives.

sincere's avatar

Covid killed her. End of story.

Forever_Free's avatar

@Jeruba reads perfectly fine to me.

KNOWITALL's avatar

In my opinion, the employer bears the responsibility of safety in the workplace.
My employer requires anyone sick in any way to stay home then test negative for safety before coming back. And all employees are to be masked at all times in the workplace.

Jeruba's avatar

@Forever_Free, so would you mind restating your position, then? Just for clarity’s sake. Because I see you saying that you oppose any official who has taken a strong position in support of safety. The “not” cancels the “anything but” and leaves us with any official who has taken a strong line. That’s whom you oppose.

Forever_Free's avatar

@Jeruba apologies if that rubs you the wrong way.

I wax poetically on some things that may pull me away from Sister Mary Anne’s grammar rules.

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”
― Rumi

JLeslie's avatar

@Forever_Free Why not just restate it to clarify? @Jeruba seems to genuinely want to know your thoughts.

Forever_Free's avatar

@Jeruba restated:
There is nothing here that can legally substantiate either premise.
The workplace was not liable either.
I however feel strongly against any workplace or government official who does not take a strong line towards doing the safest think possible.
I would also take a strong stance if my employer forced me to come into the office without proper measures or giving me the choice. I value my life over a workplace that does not have it’s employees safety in mind.

Jeruba's avatar

Grammar supports meaning. But my query was not based in grammar. It was straightforward sense.

Repeating is not restating. But never mind, I’m no longer interested in knowing your thoughts.

Oh, and it’s “wax poetic,” not “poetically.” You’re not waxing in a poetic way (adverb). You’re waxing (becoming or growing) poetic (adjective). Not that what you said was particularly poetic; it wasn’t.

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