AIDS & Ethics

AIDS & Ethics

AIDS & Ethics

AIDS & Ethics


Should a physician with AIDS be required to inform his or her patients? Does a physician have an obligation to warn the partner who wants this fact kept secret? Should all newborns and pregnant women be screened for HIV? Should insurance companies be required to insure patients who test positive for the disease? Professionals and society at large are confronted by a wide range of complex ethical issues produced by the AIDS health crisis. AIDS and Ethics is the first major collection of essays on the complex ethical issues created by the AIDS crisis. The nation's leading bioethics experts from the fields of law, medicine, philosophy, political science, religion, and social work present original and accessible essays. They address current controversial issues related to the tension between civil rights and public health, mandatory HIV testing, human subjects research, health care insurance, AIDS education, militant AIDS activism, the physician-patient relationship, issues of privacy, and legal issues. This important book will provide philosophical and practical guidelines to health care and human service professionals, policy makers, scholars, and others affected by the AIDS crisis.


Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (hereafter AIDS) has given new meaning to the term crisis. the numbers alone are staggering, each new set of infection and mortality data often being outdated by the time they are printed.

But the aids crisis is exacting more than a death toll. It is also imposing disturbingly novel and provocative ethical questions. Under what circumstances is mandatory screening for this infectious disease warranted? What access should aids patients have to nonapproved therapies? Should pregnant aids patients be permitted to participate in randomized clinical trials? Should insurance companies be required to insure individuals who are seropositive? What are the limits of aids patients' right to confidentiality? Do physicians and other health care professionals have an obligation to treat aids patients?

By now, as we bring to a close the first decade of the disease's history, we have a good grasp of the most troubling and troublesome ethical questions. With respect to some, consensus on the answers is beginning to emerge. Few, for example, now argue for widespread or universal mandatory testing. It is also now widely believed that contact tracing should preserve, as much as possible, aids patients' privacy.

But with a number of other questions broached in these pages, the only thing clear is that the answers are murky. Do parents of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected child have a duty to disclose this fact to parents of the child's playmates? Does a physician have an obligation to warn the spouse of an infected patient who wants this fact kept secret? Should rigorous methodological features that govern aids research be relaxed to enhance patients' access to nonapproved drugs?

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