The GEM Debate:
Do You Have The Right NOT To Know?
Here’s an interesting story. A 31-year-old woman who is suing her doctor because, unbeknownst to her, he performed an HIV test on her, then told her the results were positive. She’s furious because Dr. Pavel Yutsis violated her rights by ordering more blood be taken, ran the test then informed her of the results. Now, I know what the law says and if we’re using that as the only criteria, then the doctor was clearly out of bounds. But let’s look at the moral and ethical responsibilities here.
“Jane Doe” went to Dr. Yutsis because she had a problem identified by a nutritionist. After seeing Dr. Yutsis for several visits, he suggested she take an HIV test. She declined, saying she wanted to concentrate on getting healthy (she was recovering from weight loss surgery). Anyone who has had as much as an eyelash pulled knows that there is paperwork and consents to be signed. We may sign offhandedly, but they have to get that signature. Dr. Yutsis did not.
There could be a host of reasons she doesn’t want to know; she could be monogamous and her partner is positive, she could be celibate, she could be recently retired from the porn industry and had her regular required test for the disease, knew her status, and didn’t want to share it with another physician. And that’s her right. We as a society aren’t required to take the test and as such we shouldn’t be made to.
There is another side to this debate and that is the moral one. Yes, she has a right under the law, to know what tests are being performed on her and history is littered with examples of medical community members gone rogue. But what about her potential sex partners? Do they have a right to know information that the Dr. is suspicious of? An what of Dr. Yutsis? He took the Hippocratic oath, which reads in part:
I will apply dietetic measures for the benefit of the sick according to my ability and judgment; I will keep them from harm and injustice.
How does not informing someone of his suspicions jive with that?
Doctors now have the Principles of Medical Ethics which in part states they should be honest in all interactions and respect the rights of patients. This doctor broke the law and his promise to uphold these principles legally and morally. I believe that each person should know their HIV status and be diligent about testing, but it’s still a choice, and Jane Doe’s choice was taken from her by Dr. Yutsis.
But I could be wrong. What do you think? Do you think the ends justify the means? Or do you have the right to not know details of your medical condition? Let’s hear ya!
More From GEM