Syndromic Surveillance and Patients as Victims and Vectors

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 187-195, 2009

14 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2009

See all articles by Leslie P. Francis

Leslie P. Francis

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Margaret Pabst Battin

University of Utah - Department of Philosophy

Jay A. Jacobson

University of Utah - School of Medicine

Charles B. Smith

University of Utah

Date Written: December 2, 2009

Abstract

The burgeoning availability of electronic health data allows the development of techniques of “syndromic surveillance”: attempts to identify behavioral or symptom patterns of potential significance to ascertain a developing public health threat as quickly as possible. By collecting and mining real-time data about disease indicators, possible outbreaks of diseases can be targeted even before the diseases themselves have been identified. Despite its public health benefits, syndromic surveillance poses novel problems for bioethics and health law. Informed consent is problematic, for example, because the significance of any particular test result or symptom observation is unknown absent an observation of developing patterns. Drawing on the authors’ prior work in understanding patients as victims and vectors, this article analyzes the ethical issues raised by syndromic surveillance and proposes solutions to them.

Suggested Citation

Francis, Leslie P. and Battin, Margaret Pabst and Jacobson, Jay A. and Smith, Charles B., Syndromic Surveillance and Patients as Victims and Vectors (December 2, 2009). Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 187-195, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1517420

Leslie P. Francis (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

Margaret Pabst Battin

University of Utah - Department of Philosophy ( email )

215 South Central Campus Dr.
Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States
(801) 581-6608 (Phone)
(801) 585-5195 (Fax)

Jay A. Jacobson

University of Utah - School of Medicine ( email )

30 N 1900 E
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States
(801) 408-1135 (Phone)

Charles B. Smith

University of Utah ( email )

1645 E. Campus Center
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

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