Should blood-borne virus testing be part of operative consent? When the doctor becomes the patient

Journal of Medical Ethics 37 (8):476-478 (2011)
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Abstract

Point-of-care testing (POCT) is a sensitive, specific and rapid form of testing for the presence of HIV antibodies. Post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV infection can reduce seroconversion rates by up to 80%. Needlestick injuries are the second commonest cause of occupational injury in the NHS and 20% of these occur during operations. In the NHS, in order to protect staff and patients from the risk of bloodborne viruses such as HIV, it is mandatory to report such injuries; however, numerous studies have shown that many groups, particularly doctors, are reluctant to do so. This article outlines the arguments for and against the introduction of preoperatively seeking consent from patients to have their blood tested for HIV via POCT in order to improve the reporting rates of needlestick injuries incurred during surgery and to protect staff from infection.

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Suzanne Adams
Keele University

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