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Medical Board Says Physicians Can Keep AIDS Infection Secret

November 22, 1987

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Texas physicians who test positive for AIDS are not bound to tell their patients because the chances of passing on the disease are remote, the Texas Medical Association determined.

The TMA Board of Counselors approved the AIDS policy during a closed meeting Friday night, said board member Marshall Dougherty. The policy also allows doctors to turn away AIDS patients if they can find another doctor to treat them.

The policy was formally announced Saturday to Texas Medical Association delegates attending a two-day convention in Austin.

Adoption of the policy follows a controversy surrounding Mesquite pediatrician Dr. Robert Huse, who revealed in a lawsuit he filed that he tested positive for the AIDS virus. Huse subsequently lost almost all his patients and was forced to leave his practice.

Debbie McWhorter, whose son was one of Huse’s patients, presented a petition with 400 signatures urging that the non-disclosure policy not be adopted.

″I cannot share with you how agonizing this was,″ Ms. McWhorter said. ″I feel like he betrayed us. I feel cheated. I don’t know if I will ever trust another doctor.″

″I feel for you,″ responded convention delegate Dr. Fred Buckwold. ″I understand your concern. But, the question is, ‘Can you catch AIDS through casual contact?’ We’ve learned a lot about AIDS, and you can’t.″

The non-disclosure policy is similar to that adopted by the American Medical Association, but the Texas group differed with the AMA on another part of the policy - the rule allowing physicians to refuse to administer AIDS treatment if they can find another qualified physician to provide care, Dougherty said.

Under AMA policy, physicians qualified to treat AIDS patients ″may not ethically refuse″ to treat a person with AIDS or the AIDS virus.

The policies are moral and ethical guidelines and not legally binding.

The Texas policy also stipulates that a doctor who has tested positive for the AIDS antibody should not engage in any activity that creates a risk of transmission to others, Dougherty said.

The Board of Governors also adopted a policy calling for doctors to report all AIDS cases to the Texas Department of Health, to provide counseling and to try to persuade the patient not to endanger others. Doctors do not have to inform the spouses of patients who test positive for AIDS, the policy says.

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