AIDS, nursing and occupational risk: an ethical analysis

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Abstract

This paper examines the notion of risk assessment in relation to nursing patients with HIV infection or AIDS Risk assessment consists in examining three features of a given hazard, its magnitude, its probability, and its acceptability In relation to the last of these, an‘acceptability threshold’ can be identified If contact with HIV-infected patients is perceived to pass this threshold, nurses may seek to abrogate the usual‘duty to treat’ Rather than endeavour to pinpoint this threshold, the paper explores some of the factors which may either raise or lower it, and their ethical implications In particular, the consequences of setting a high threshold, and thereby limiting or avoiding contact with patients infected with HIV, are examined In this debate, the burden of proof is seen as resting firmly on nurses themselves, not on the patients at risk of being deprived of care

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