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An AIDS lexicon
  1. Kenneth M Boyd,
  2. Roger Higgs,
  3. Anthony J Pinching
  1. Edinburgh University Medical School and Institute of Medical Ethics, Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, London and St Bartholomew's and The Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, London respectively

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    The sudden appearance of a truly new disease is a wake-up call. A new global pandemic of an infectious agent, transmitted through sexual contact and blood, affecting alienated and/or deprived people and communities, infectious throughout, that causes a slowly progressive breakdown of defence against other infectious diseases, as well as causing dementia in some, and leads to a premature death, occurring in an era of extensive travel and rapid communication, is a veritable tocsin. These crude ingredients of AIDS as a medical and social phenomenon, blended with the poignant personal histories revealed to clinical professionals, spiced — as if this were necessary — by the fear, the prejudice, the wild theorising and the voyeurism, have presented a substantial challenge to practical medical ethics.

    Familiar ethical debates have been reopened with new perspective and insight, others have been examined thoroughly for the first time. Building on the major developments in medical ethics over recent decades, AIDS has provided an opportunity, indeed a necessity, for its maturation. It continues to present new issues for debate, while those that were present from the outset continue to perplex us, as this issue of the journal should show. In teaching, AIDS offers a plethora of examples to illustrate most of the central tenets and tensions of medical ethics. As an exemplar, it has provided preparation and precedent for addressing some of the issues emerging from new challenges, such as screening for susceptibility to genetic disease.



    The word comes from the same germanic root as “to be robbed excessively”. Bereavement is an intensely personal and disorienting experience, to which people can react with denial, anger, guilt or depression, sometimes prolonged. In Western countries nowadays it is most commonly experienced in mid-life through the death of a parent, or in old age through that of a …

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    • Kenneth M Boyd is Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics, Edinburgh University Medical School and Research Director, Institute of Medical Ethics. Roger Higgs is Professor of General Practice and Primary Care, Guy's, King's and St Thomas' School of Medicine, King's College London. Anthony J Pinching is Louis Freedman Professor of Immunology and Fellow, Department of Human Science and Medical Ethics, St Bartholomew's and The Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary & Westfield College, London.

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