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Medicine and Public Policy |

The Daedalus Effect: Changes in Ethical Questions Relating to Hepatitis B Virus

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Grant support: in part by United States Public Health Service grants CA-06651, RR-05539, and CA-06927 from the National Institutes of Health, and by an appropriation from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

▸Requests for reprints should be addressed to: Baruch S. Blumberg, M.D.; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Institute for Cancer Research, 7701 Burholme Avenue; Philadelphia, PA 19111.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

© 1985 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1985;102(3):390-394. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-102-3-390
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The Daedalus myth is a metaphor for aspects of the scientific process. When a problem is solved it often raises others, and when these in turn are solved they generate additional questions. Although perfect solutions may not be possible, major improvements can be made in many cases. Research on the hepatitis B virus is an example. The ability to detect carriers of hepatitis B virus contributed to the control of post-transfusion hepatitis but raised social and ethical problems inherent to the identification of carriers in the community. Partial solutions to this problem resulted from the ability to distinguish infectious from noninfectious carriers by the use of the hepatitis B e antigen (HBeAg) test and the development of an effective vaccine against hepatitis B virus. These solutions will undoubtedly lead to other problems and their solutions, which will in turn lead to other ethical and medical questions.





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