Victim and Vector

How do we ethically care for those with an infectious illness?

The patient as victim and vector : ethics and infectious disease

by Margaret P. Battin et al Oxford, 2008
561p, 9780195335842 $99.00, 9780195335835 $29.95

Four experts in different disciplines (all, Univ. of Utah) offer a superb exploration of the challenges that infectious diseases pose for bioethics. Battin (philosophy/medical ethics), Leslie P. Francis (philosophy/law), Jay A. Jacobson (internal medicine), and Charles B. Smith (emer., medicine) discuss patients with communicable diseases as simultaneously being victims of their illness but also possible vectors who may transmit disease to others. In part 1, contributors look at the evolution and consequences of this situation for patient-centered ethics, and in part 2 they develop a normative framework. Elsewhere they discuss specific diseases such as HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant tuberculosis; the ethics of research; the responses of the medical community to infectious disease, ranging from rapid testing and immunization to antibiotic therapy and quarantine; and efforts worldwide to manage infectious disease, among other topics. A valuable addition to the discussion would be a section on the physician’s obligation to remain with patients in a pandemic. Despite the potential difficulties of having four contributors involved with all chapters, this multidisciplinary volume is a highly successful one that will appeal to students and scholars in fields including philosophy, law, health care, and public policy.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through professionals/practitioners.
Reviewer: E. H. Loewy, University of California, Davis
Subject: Science & Technology – Health Sciences
Choice Issue: Oct 2009