How Infectious Diseases Got Left Out - and What this Omission Might Have Meant for Bioethics

16 Pages Posted: 27 Aug 2005

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

Jeffrey Botkin

University of Utah - Pediatric Administration

Abstract

In this article, we first document the virtually complete absence of infectious disease examples and concerns at the time bioethics emerged as a field. We then argue that this oversight was not benign by considering two central issues in the field, informed consent and distributive justice, and showing how they might have been framed differently had infectiousness been at the forefront of concern. The solution to this omission might be to apply standard approaches in liberal bioethics, such as autonomy and the harm principle, to infectious examples. We argue that this is insufficient, however. Taking infectious disease into account requires understanding the patient as victim and as vector. Infectiousness reminds us that as autonomous agents we are both embodied and vulnerable in our relationships with others. We conclude by applying this reunderstanding of agency to the examples of informed consent and distributive justice in health care.

Suggested Citation

Francis, Leslie P. and Battin, Margaret Pabst and Jacobson, Jay A. and Smith, Charles B. and Botkin, Jeffrey, How Infectious Diseases Got Left Out - and What this Omission Might Have Meant for Bioethics. Bioethics, Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 307-322, August 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=777806

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

Jeffrey Botkin

University of Utah - Pediatric Administration ( email )

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

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