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April 20, 1994

HIV Testing: AMA Code of Ethics

Author Affiliations

Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs American Medical Association Chicago, Ill

JAMA. 1994;271(15):1160. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510390030020

To the Editor.  —In a recent Medical News & Perspectives article,1JAMA mischaracterizes the American Medical Association (AMA) policy on patient consent to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing. It is true that the House of Delegates adopted a policy in December 1991 that allows for HIV testing without explicit informed consent from the patient.2 However, the AMA's ethics code imposes a higher obligation on physicians. According to Opinion 2.23 of the Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs: "Physicians should ensure that HIV testing is conducted in a way that respects patient autonomy and assures patient confidentiality as much as possible. The physician should secure the patient's informed consent specific for HIV testing before testing is performed [emphasis added]."3The requirement of explicit, informed consent enables patients to exercise their fundamental right to determine what will be done to their bodies. In addition, a process of explicit consent

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