Can Communities Protect Autonomy? Ethical Dilemmas in HIV Preventative Drug Trials

Before sailing past the sirens' “flowery meadow,” Ulysses instructed his sailors to lash him to the mast so that he would not succumb to the siren's singing. His advance directive demonstrated that he valued his dispositional or long-term autonomy over his unquestioned right to make decisions. He also indicated to his oarsmen that he understood the nature of temptation and his inability to resist it. Ideas of autonomy and sexual choice are central to this discussion of new AIDS treatments, especially the trials of preventative vaccines. Questions arise over the rights of individuals and the extent that these should be limited by concerns of the gay community. Should the gay community intervene in the risky decisions of individuals if no explicit advance directive exists? If so, how do they justify their paternalism? Could their aims not be better served through strengthening the individual dispositional autonomy of trial participants rather than making specific claims about the common good?
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DOI 10.1017/S0963180100006356
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