The article by Gerbert et al,1 in this issue of The Journal, presents a number of opinions expressed by the public in response to a questionnaire. The article indicates that there is need for education of the public regarding the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), transmission of the disease, and, perhaps most important, the steps that the medical profession has taken to protect patients.
There was an important lack of understanding by the public regarding transmission of the disease. Thirty-three percent believed it was likely that they could get AIDS from an infected physician. There is good statistical evidence that transmission from patient to health care worker is rare: transmission from physician to patient is even less common. There is almost no risk of a patient acquiring AIDS from his or her physician.
However, "almost no risk" is too much risk for ethical physicians to ask their patients to take
Dickey NW. Physicians and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: A Reply to Patients. JAMA. 1989;262(14):2002. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03430140120036