HIV infection

Legal Pearls: Poor Communication and Information Gathering

  • After visiting an urgent care clinic due to concerns of a sexually transmitted infection, a young gay man with a history of depression reported joint stiffness, aches, and a scattered rash over his abdomen and extremities. The doctor suspected a viral infection and prescribed an antibiotic.

    Three days later, the patientt returned with a new concern–facial numbness and the inability to shut his left eye. He was diagnosed as having Bell palsy. Another doctor at the clinic suggested an HIV test, noting that his symptoms were suggestive of HIV infection. The patient agreed and signed the consent form for the HIV laboratory test.

    Thinking that the patient could have Guillain-Barre , his doctor referred him to a neurologist who prescribed prednisone. Unbeknownst to the patient, the neurologist had cancelled the HIV test.

    After several years and worsening symptoms, the patient sought treatment at another health facility. The results of an HIV test confirmed that Mr D had HIV, and that his disease had progressed to AIDS.

    Who was at fault?

    (Discussion on next page)

    Ann W. Latner, JD, is a freelance writer and attorney based in New York. She was formerly the director of periodicals at the American Pharmacists Association and editor of Pharmacy Times.