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Commentary
HIV status: the prima facie right not to know the result
  1. Tak Kwong Chan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tak Kwong Chan, Department of Pharmacology and Pharmacy, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong; theo{at}hku.hk

Abstract

When a patient regains consciousness from Cryptococcus meningitis, the clinician may offer an HIV test (in case it has not already been done) (scenario 1) or offer to tell the patient his HIV status (in case the test has already been performed with a positive result while the patient was unconscious) (scenario 2). Youngs and Simmonds proposed that the patient has the prima facie right to refuse an HIV test in scenario 1 but not the prima facie right not to be told the HIV status in scenario 2. I submit that the claims to the right of refusal in both scenarios are similarly strong as they should both be grounded in privacy, self determination or dignity. But a conscientious agent should bear in mind that members of the public also have the right not to be harmed. When the circumstance allows, a proper balance of the potential benefits and harm for all the competing parties should guide the clinical decision as to whose right should finally prevail. Where a full ethical analysis is not possible, the presumption should favour respecting the patient's right of refusal in both scenarios.

  • HIV Infection and AIDS
  • Right to Refuse Treatment

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