In this opinion the Hellenic National Bioethics Commission (HNBC) analyzed: "Infectious diseases: Public health and autonomy". This debate is a major concern of contemporary bioethics, which influences crucial decision-making when there is an outburst of an epidemic or an endemic. There are frequent examples in the news, such as the avian influenza (bird flu), the SARS and most recently the Η1Ν1 virus; furthermore the spread of HIV/AIDS or the recurrence of tuberculosis are also arising matters.
Based on the previously issued opinion regarding the "Consent in the physician-patient relationship", the HNBC puts focus reflection on the priority of personal autonomy in health relating matters. Of course there are limitations on this autonomy, when it endangers the public health, however, due to the variation of the contagious nature and the severity of the infectious diseases, these limitations should be carefully considered and thoroughly analyzed.
The HNBC evaluates specific issues, such as the vaccination, the compulsory treatment under special circumstances, the need for integrity in conducting clinical trials, but also the potential restriction of the patent to new treatments with a view of an epidemic. It stresses out the danger of social stigmatism -with the excuse of the protection of public health- and it examines the sensitive issue of illegal immigrants and the infection of HIV/AIDS, situations where there is the necessity for balancing fundamental rights.
The opinion includes recommendation for the appropriate action that should be taken by the State but also by the medical society.