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April 17, 2009

Michigan Debates Written Consent for HIV Testing

A proposed legislation in Michigan would end the requirement that people must give written consent before getting tested for HIV, allowing health care workers to test patients without informed consent, The Michigan Messenger reports.

HIV advocates who support the bill believe it will allow physicians to detect and treat HIV early. However, others say that putting the bill into effect will breach privacy rights and could lead to insurance companies refusing to cover patients living with HIV.

Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended opt-out routine testing in 2006, Michigan still offers opt-in testing, where a patient has to consent to being tested ahead of time. Bruce Rossman, a spokesman for Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health, said, “We have not [implemented the CDC guidelines] under the current law because, unfortunately, a lot of our current physicians feel that [informed consent] is a hurdle.”

Royal Oak attorney Kendra Kleber worries that the current version of the proposed bill takes control away from the patients—and gives it to doctors and insurance companies. “Everything about this bill, except that little section [on anonymous testing], says you have no control over when you are tested and what happens to your results,” she said. “But the fact of the matter is that if you went to your normal doctor and had a physical last week and even if you doctor didn’t say anything to you about HIV, he could have tested you and so your results could already be in the record. Which means they are already knowable to an insurance company.”

She added, “Your ability to make decisions as a reasonable, rational adult has been taken away from you by this amendment to this one statute. I find it very, very, very problematic.”

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