Concepts such as disease and health can be difficult to define precisely. Part of the reason for this is that they embody value judgments and are rooted in metaphor. The precise meaning of terms like health, healing and wholeness is likely to remain elusive, because the disconcerting openness of the outlook gained from experience alone resists the reduction of first-person judgments (including those of religion) to third-person explanations (including those of science).
An Institute of Medical Ethics working party argues that an ethically desirable relationship of mutual empowerment between patient and clinician is more likely to be achieved if patients understand the ground rules of medical confidentiality. It identifies and illustrates ambiguities in the General Medical Council's guidance on AIDS and confidentiality, and relates this to the practice of different doctors and specialties. Matters might be clarified, it suggests, by identifying moral factors which tend to recur in medical decisions about maintaining or (...) breaching confidentiality. The working party argues that two such factors are particularly important: the patient's need to exercise informed choice and the doctor's primary responsibility to his or her own patients. (shrink)
An Institute of Medical Ethics working party supports the view that explicit permission should normally be sought in the case of testing for HIV antibody. It discusses this in relation to anonymised HIV testing for epidemiological purposes, concluding that this is to be welcomed, given certain safeguards. It next argues that pregnant women may have a greater and more immediate need than others to know their HIV status. It concludes that this need does not justify testing them without their permission, (...) but can be met by voluntary diagnostic testing on an 'opting-out' basis, supported by adequate briefing. (shrink)
The authors report and comment on student reactions to a clinical example of moral choice in the microallocation of scarce resources. Four patients require dialysis simultaneously, but only one kidney machine is available. What moral, as opposed to clinical, criteria are available to determine who should have priority?
This commentary focuses on two moral values implied by the case study but not specified in the working party's conclusions, namely equitable treatment of the most vulnerable and the value of political government.
For much of human history the idea of a right to life has not seemed self-evident. The credibility of the idea appears to depend on a particular kind of intuition concerning the nature of the world. In this paper, the kind of intuition involved is related to the idea of a covenant, illustrated by that of marriage. The paper concludes by suggesting that talk about responsibilities may be more fruitful than talk about rights.