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December/January 2019/2020 (vol. 16/4)

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Unconscious decisions

Summary:

Can testing the blood of an incapacitated patient for HIV infection, without their consent, be justified as being in their ‘best interests’ if the main purpose is to safeguard a healthcare worker following a needlestick injury?

Is it lawful and ethical to test, without consent, the blood of an unconscious patient for HIV infection if a healthcare worker (HCW) receives a needlestick injury and needs to decide quickly whether or not to start post-exposure prophylaxis? The Medical Protection Society advises: ‘Where a patient lacks capacity to consent, it is not possible to obtain consent to test from a third party. Consent can be deemed to exist only in the situation where testing is in the patient’s best interests. It is not sufficient for testing to be in the best interests of a third party (eg, a healthcare worker after a needlestick injury)….

Author: Ballard J

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Occupational Health at Work December/January 2019/2020 (vol. 16/4) pp03

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