Case Analysis - Public Health vs. Privacy Rights, in Neonatal HIV Testing

Essay by AngelusTVSUniversity, Master'sA-, December 2006

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Dr. Tremblay's case is basically a classical ethical debate, where the question is asked: do the needs of the few, outweigh the rights of the many? In this case the "many" is comprised of thirty-seven babies, and their mothers, anonymously tested for HIV, and the "few" is an anonymous baby from the group, suspected of having neonatal HIV. Tremblay hoped to find this baby and deliver treatment (as well as giving treatment to the mother), but in doing so he would violate the right to anonymity that the other thirty-six mothers and babies are legally entitled to. At the end of the synopsis explaining Dr. Tremblay's plight, he has gone ahead and started to order named tests (breaking the anonymity). In this analysis I am trying to discern whether or not Dr. Tremblay was ethically and legally justified in his actions by using three tests: 1) the consequentalist/utilitarian test, 2) the deontological test, and 3) the Supreme Court's Three-Pronged Test.

The utilitarian test, as follows with utilitarianism, is fairly simple: weight the benefits and the consequences of Dr. Tremblay's action - this includes both probably short-term and long-term effects, as well as possible near and far reaching consequences of such an action. Since Dr. Tremblay is not directly trying to harm anyone, and as a doctor, it is safe to assume that he has chosen his profession to help people, his action is first and foremost (in his eyes) to benefit the health of the infected baby. Therefore, I will first examine the benefits of his action(s).

Obviously, Dr. Tremblay would be able to find the infected baby/mother if he is allowed to perform named retests of the thirty-seven babies/mothers. With the named results he will be able to determine which is infected, and provide them with treatment. It is...