To the editor:
Recently the board of Lawrence Memorial Hospital, through a policy on AIDS testing, decided to require written permission prior to performing the AIDS test. Through this policy, physicians in the hospital will, on occasion, have more difficulty in determining the AIDS status of a patient. On occasion, patients come to the hospital with vague, unclear symptoms. The AIDS test can be useful in sorting out these medical diagnoses. Further, knowledge of the AIDS test can be protective of health care workers who deal with these patients.
I am sympathetic with the concerns of privacy. However, as a physician who deals with AIDS patients, it would seem to me that privacy takes a secondary position to the proper diagnosis of disease and reduction of spread of AIDS to health care workers. The board did not listen to an overwhelming majority of the medical staff when the physicians rejected the idea of written permission for AIDS testing. The board should regard this disease as the public health disaster that it has become. They should allow the hospital physicians every advantage available to diagnose this ailment. They should allow any opportunity to protect health care workers from contracting this killing disease. Through their action, it will simply make it more difficult to diagnose some medical problems. It will put health care workers at a higher risk.
Gerald B. Pees, M.D.,