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This special issue is the third in a series published by the BMJ Group.1 ,2 The papers published here arose from a call for papers linked to a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council: ‘Criminalising Contagion: Legal and Ethical Challenges of Disease Transmission and the Criminal Law’, undertaken by David Gurnham, Hannah Quirk and myself. Since January 2013, we have held four seminars, which have brought together academics, healthcare professionals, representatives from charities, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Law Commission and the media. While the focus of these seminars was largely on the sexual transmission of disease (ie, HIV and herpes), the recent Ebola outbreak has highlighted the importance of addressing the broader questions as to whether, and if so when, the criminal law should be used in the context of disease transmission.3
The application of the criminal law to prosecute individuals for the transmission (and in some jurisdictions merely the exposure of another to the risk4) of sexually transmissible infections has been controversial. In England and Wales, successful prosecutions have …
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