To the editors:
Robert McClory’s February 17th article on AIDS-related legal issues was an excellent, compassionate look at a complex subject. However, the article included several misstatements of law which are potentially of tremendous importance to many people.
First, the article indicated that Illinois law mandates HIV testing for all hospital personnel. This is absolutely untrue.
Second, the article indicated that doctors may test patients for HIV without their knowledge or consent, even when there is no special medical reason to do so. In fact, one Illinois law does permit such HIV testing, but only when “medically indicated to provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment.” Moreover, this law may be unconstitutional, and other laws–including a federal law which “trumps” state law–may “overrule” this Illinois law, prohibiting HIV testing without consent.
Therefore, persons tested for HIV without their consent should contact the ACLU to find out if their rights have been violated. Indeed, although Mr. McClory is right that the ACLU “leans toward precedent-setting cases,” many cases of AIDS discrimination fit that description; therefore, anyone subjected to such discrimination may contact the ACLU to discuss the remedies available by them.
John R. Hammell
AIDS and Civil Liberties Project
Robert McClory replies:
I regret the misinformation regarding the testing of hospital personnel. However, the Illinois law to which Mr. Hammell refers does allow medical personnel to perform HIV tests “for the purpose of research” and in these cases does not require any medical indications to justify that test. The law further states that research testing should be performed in such a way that the identity of the test subject is never disclosed and the results are not made known, even to the test subject.