MICHAEL REICHGOTT, M.D., PH.D; IRWIN SINGER, M.D.
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To the editor: In their article "Conflicting Duties to Patients: The Case of a Sexually Active Hepatitis B Carrier," Perkins and Jonsen (1) admirably review two difficult questions: namely, the infectivity of chronic hepatitis carriers and the ethical responsibilities created by the physician-patient relationship. But their conclusion that the physician's responsibility is most appropriately focused on the "immediate" patient's trust relationship seems limited.
First, the fact of hepatitis B carrier state is not confidential information in the case presented. This knowledge is already held by the employee health officer of the hospital. Therefore, a different ethical question can be raised:
REICHGOTT M, SINGER I. The Hepatitis Carrier and Ethical Issues. Ann Intern Med. ;95:513–514. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-95-4-513
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1981;95(4):513-514.
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