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Disclosure Laws

Health care professionals carrying the AIDS virus should inform all patients they come into contact with of their disease and the possible risk factors that it may pose. In this paper I will discuss the need for disclosure laws, consider and analyze some possible objections against disclosure laws, and finally conclude that our society should adopt these laws.

The main argument for disclosure when considering health care professionals relates to the idea that people have the right to know all risks, associated with their care. When a doctor becomes ill with some sort of contagious sickness they do not work because they could harm other people. However, when it comes to AIDS this is another issue because there are only certain ways which one could become infected with the disease. In turn, this argument is founded on the assumption that HIV positive health care professionals pose a risk to their patients. While the risks may be slim when taking necessary precautions, there is still a small possibility one might become infected some way, therefore, no protection is enough. So far, only one case of HIV transmission from a health care professional to patient has been documented, the case involves an HIV positive dentist who might have infected a patient (Stryker). In this age when we are constantly learning new factors about HIV transmission, we cannot afford to take any risks.

The need for disclosure laws can easily be represented by Mill s Principle of Utility. The principle is utilitarian, which states that a person should do what will benefit the greatest number of people in the long run. Utilitarianism also states that preventing pain and promoting pleasure allow people to reach desired ends of life. In utilitarianism all matters ultimately, in determining the right and wrong choice is the amount of good promoted and evil restrained. Having disclosure laws, would benefit the greatest number of people in the long run. If health care professionals were required by law to make available their HIV status, it would create the most good for society. By knowing this information patients have a choice of what to do about the situation. They will benefit by eliminating all risks which an HIV positive health care professional may pose on a patient/doctor basis. As well as benefiting the greatest number of people by having the information available, it will also eliminate the amount of emotional and physical pain the AIDS virus can impose on an individual. By decreasing the amount of pain, this does exactly what the idea of utilitarianism holds; which is that the amount of good is promoted and evil restrained. Therefore, having disclosure laws are morally right according to utilitarianism and Mill s Principle of Utility.

The primary argument against disclosure laws revolves around the idea that health care professionals do not pose a risk to their patients in the first place. Without fluid to fluid contact, HIV cannot be spread. In addition, physicians and nurses wear gloves. Certain doctors who do not perform invasive surgery procedures present no risk to patients, therefore, their practices are acceptable. While a number of HIV positive health care professionals are known to be practicing medicine, the possibility of one infecting a patient with the virus is minuscule. If these doctors are forced to make public their HIV status, they could possibly lose their jobs, as well as their credibility, and their dignity. By telling the public their status they forfeit their own rights and create suffering amidst themselves.

Wearing gloves and taking the necessary precautions are not enough. There could be a hole in the glove which is being worn by the health care professional, or there could be an instance where in surgery the health care professional might accidentally cut their own hand or finger while their hand is inside of a patients body as they operate. The patient has no protection against these sorts of accidents form happening, because they would be unaware of these risks. Before going under the knife the patient can protect themselves by asking their doctor their HIV status. However, there are some health care professionals that do not work in such medical departments as surgery, and they do not perform invasive procedures, these doctors, for example like psychiatrists, do not come into physical contact with their patients and therefore have no need to make their status known. As for certain health care professionals losing their jobs due to the possible outcomes of disclosure laws, the population of AIDS patients are small, while the population of health care professionals infected with AIDS is even smaller. Consequently, by having disclosure laws it would still benefit the greatest amount of people in the long run since the population or people without AIDS is greater, than those with AIDS.

While some argue that keeping their HIV status a secret, it is a doctor s right to their own personal privacy, but at the same time I feel that the patients have their own personal right to know. In this case, I believe that the health care professionals should give up their personal right to benefit the majority of the people.

In conclusion, I feel that it is a person s own business if they have AIDS, but when they are coming into contact with people everyday on a personal basis they must keep in mind the possible dangers which they might be putting on another individual. I personally would like to know the status of the doctors and nurses which are providing me care, not only to protect myself, but the others around me as well.


Stryker Jeff, “HIV Positive Health Care Workers.” HIV Insite. Posted March 26, 1999, accessed March 31, 1999.


Stryker Jeff, “HIV Positive Health Care Workers.” HIV Insite. Posted March 26, 1999, accessed March 31, 1999.

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