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Should HIV positive medical staff be allowed to perform surgery?

Patients seeking medical attention in Houston for their health conditions typically believe that their doctors are taking whatever steps necessary to keep them safe. Although extremely rare, there have been cases of healthcare workers infecting their patients with HIV. Surgical errors can occur and patients here in Texas and around the world can acquire new diseases that only worsen their conditions.

In the United Kingdom, for example, a ban on healthcare staff undergoing treatment for HIV was recently lifted, allowing them to keep their jobs that include performing surgery and dentistry. Now, healthcare staff who have HIV and are currently controlling their infection with antiretroviral drug therapy can resume doing their jobs without any restrictions. However, the professional infected must be regularly monitored and have an undetectable viral load.

The government claims that the risk to patients is negligible and patients have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than by getting infected with HIV. There are currently approximately 110 staff members who are affected by this change in regulation. Although the risk of being infected by a healthcare provider with HIV is slight, there have been four such cases recorded.

When a patient is infected by a disease passed on by a healthcare provider here in Texas, it is in that person's best interest to know what legal rights they have. They may have the right to seek compensation for their ordeal, which can include compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, future medical expenses and other damages.

Source: BBC, "Ban lifted for NHS staff with HIV," Aug. 15, 2013

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