Vanderbilt Law Review


A. Samuel Oddi

First Page



Latrogenic injuries'-those caused by health care professionals (HCPs) in the course of treating patients-raise significant ethical, legal, and public policy issues.' With the advent of the AIDS epidemic, these issues become even more difficult when the iatrogenic injury results not from the patient's having received treatment below the professional standard of care (which is the usual grist for the malpractice mill) but from an infectious condition of the HCP. Considerable public attention has been directed to patients who have been exposed to the risk of AIDS by HIV-positive HCPs.6 It is difficult to be unmoved by the tragic example of Kimberly Bergalis and five other patients who contracted AIDS after being treated by a dentist who died of AIDS shortly thereafter.' The public outcry of "Physician, heal thyself' was immediate, as were governmental proposals for dealing with the perceived problem. Responses from various interest groups were equally swift and effective.'" Despite the flood of proposals and recommendations, however, there appears to be an absence of political will to address the problem; the task therefore is thrown to the legal system." In this instance, the law of torts will be asked to provide the theories of recovery for patients who are infected with HIV by HCPs.'