The ethics of anonymised HIV testing of pregnant women: a reappraisal
Seroprevalence monitoring of HIV in pregnant women by anonymised unlinked testing has been widely adopted in the UK and other countries. The scientific rationale is to eliminate participation and selection bias. The ethical justification is that the public good outweighs any harm to individuals. The assumption has been that individuals have had their autonomy respected by the offer of informed consent. In the light of new scientific evidence, it is doubtful that the public good is best served by the continuation of anonymously testing women receiving antenatal care. It is submitted that it is no longer ethical for health professionals to refrain from informing pregnant women of the benefits of voluntary named testing, or to request their consent to anonymised testing. The legal and moral concept of duty of care is examined, and the abrogation of this duty through anonymisation is explained.
Paquita de Zulueta, MBBChir, MA(Cantab), MRCP, MRCGP, MA(London) is a Part-time General Practitioner, and Lecturer at the St Mary's Campus, Imperial College School of Medicine, London.