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Should he be forced?

HIV Last night, Brett engaged in his bi-weekly ritual of giving me an update on the newest cure for HIV/AIDs. Roughly, once every two weeks Brett calls me and with his customary exuberance details the newest plan to defeat this sad virus. So, when he started telling me about the man whose body simply removed the HIV infection all by itself, I initiated my IABS (Ignore Adorable Boyfriend Sequence). Thus, I was surprised to stumble across a few articles that covered the

Here are the facts:
1) Andrew Stimpson was diagnosed with HIV in 2002.
2) He did not take any treatments for the HIV infection.
3) In October of 2003, he submitted to an additional test that would give doctors more specific information regarding the viral load. This test (and others to confirm it) came back negative.
4) Stimpson will not submit to further testing.

(Other sources writing a story on Stimpson: Reuters, Scotsman, BBC, BBC Q&A)

It’s no secret that Brett and I have radically different political and philosophical outlooks. Some would classify me as a radical liberal, others as an idiot. Brett on the other hand is moderate leaning conservative. I’ve come to accept this fact as simply something that I’ll have accept as a consequence of his possession of several bags of Jewish gold. Anyway, Brett did raise an interesting philosophical question last night: Given that this guy does not want to offer his blood up for testing, should the government be able to seize his blood? Brett says yes. I say no.

Here’s why I say no:

1) There’s no clear indication that this man’s blood would directly lead to some form of a cure for the HIV virus. Further, there’s no reason to believe that this man’s blood would even further the search for a cure in any substantial way. What it boils down to is that whatever happened with the HIV infection in this man’s body was extremely interesting and raises lots of questions. Frankly, I don’t believe that academic interest (regardless of the subject) should trump individual autonomy despite the tenuous link that it has to potential benefits. So basically, I’d say that in this instance there isn’t even a large out benefit to even begin to consider when we should toss individual autonomy out the window to acquire that benefit.

2) Let’s say that this man’s blood would significantly advance research. I’d still say that the government has no right to seize it. I’d toss in the oh-so-standard slippery slope argument here, but I don’t think that we need it. Individual autonomy and the government’s obligation to protect and preserve autonomy is paramount. You can toss whatever utilitarian arguments you want against me, but then you’re ultimately just advocating utilitarianism and no one really wants to do that. Think of what you’re really saying when you say, “yes we should be allowed to steal this man’s blood.” You’re saying:

- The government should be allowed to capture all of the X-Men and take samples of their DNA for scientific research.
- That maybe a woman’s right to choose isn’t as valid as we originally thought.
- That it would be acceptable for the government to impose a mandatory HIV test on all citizens.
- People already dying of cancer should be forced to endure clinical trials.

The same principle that would be used to justify taking this man’s blood is the same principle that can be used to justify any of the aforementioned instances. I am concerned whenever anyone wants to impose a limitation liberty. I not only think about how it affects the current situation, but I think about what types of arguments are used to support it and how those arguments can be applied to other very similar situations.

3) I also say no because of a semifinal round that I had against some kids from Bates College. At Bowdoin’s tournament, JW and I were in semis against some kids from Bates. Now, JW was totally on this weekend and I wasn’t doing half bad myself. Anyway, after completely dominating our quarterfinal round, we won the coin toss in semis. JW and I had this awesome case about Ronald Reagan and Antarctica that we were planning on Gov’ing, but in my (our arrogance), we chose to opp. Anyway, these bozos ran the following case against us: Patients undergoing surgery should be forced to receive HIV tests. Their arguments were insane. And pretty much everything that JW and I said was right and we should have won the round. But here’s why we didn’t:

a) Because HIV/AIDs is scary.
b) Because people don’t see what the big deal is about being forced to give up a little bit of your blood and a little bit of your identify if their is even the slightest chance for anything good to come of it.
c) Because people don’t understand what constitutes a legitimate limitation on freedom.

My point is that most people would agree with Brett on this issue because they don’t see just how scary/nasty this really is.

4) I also say no because of the guy himself. Think about what’s really being weighed in this instance: possible/maybe/potential good and academic interest against actual/direct/real harms to this guy. Here’s this dude, young guy, who gets diagnosed with HIV. BAM! He endures the mental anguish of this disease for years only to have it brought to his attention one day that it’s all over. Why should we force him to relive this nightmare with a series of tests? Why can’t we let him move on? Why should he be forced to tangibly harm his life for the interest of others?

What do you think?

Should this man be forced to give up his blood?

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8 Responses to “Should he be forced?”

  1. JW Says:

    It’d be really ironic if he got HIV again from the needle the doctors would use to take a sample of his blood.

  2. Angelo Says:

    Yet another reason why this guy shouldn’t be forced to submit for these tests.

  3. JW Says:

    And stop talking about Bowdoin, btw.

    Although, it is a real shame APDA never felt the force of the Antarctica case. A real shame.

  4. bda Says:

    Despite how much I love my boyfriend, I couldn’t think he is more wrong, usually his loony liberalism is cute - but in this case, it couldn’t be more damaging. Allow me to explain and refute, but more importantly lets go over the basic facts first.

    Man gets HIV from boyfriend, Man tests positive for HIV - tests are confirmed.
    Man becomes suicidal and depressed, goes for update test 3 years later, after no medication - MAN has no signs of HIV. The question on everyone’s mind is did this mans body have a genetic mutation that enabled him to produce an antibody for HIV/AIDS.

    First, all antibodies and human immunity has developed from mutation. The first antibodies for the flu, black plague, smallpox, even ebola (in very early stages) develop and are harvested from human beings. Individual genetic mutation that enables the body to defend against rapidly mutating viruses are either passed on. We are all decedants of survivors of the black plague - those that did not have the genetic ability to create a resistance DIED. Luckily for us, a good amount of people had the mutation (or just didn’t get the disease) and hence we are immune to the black plague, and all its other mutated forms that are now in existance.

    In the modern world, where 2/3 of a continent shouldn’t die of a virus scientists are able to work with human mutation and create a general set of vaccine (made from weaken viruses extracted from HUMAN beings). Science has failed to weaken HIV/AIDS and it continues to ravage the globe. This is the sitaution we are in, and this man holds if not the cure, the serious clues to a cure.

    In response to what Angelo had to say, i will verify why the government not only has the right but also a moral justification to seizing a sample of his mans blood.

    1. (i) Angelo basically claims that since there is no proof that taking a sample of this mans blood would cure HIV, its not worth trying and not worth the rights infringement. This is a dangerous policy - especially for a liberal. Liberals jump at a chance to change the world, even if the odds are against them. By Angelo’s logic since their is no forseeable fair way to end poverty - why try?

    2. (i) Accepting that this mans blood might cure or help cure HIV/AIDS, Angelo still disregards any human lives that can be saved so that this man (who has already undergone a series of blood tests) won’t undergo the devestating harm of undergoing one more. I agree, it is dangerous to surrender autonomy to the government - but in this case, all that is being surrendered is 1 pint of blood (at MOST). Approximately 24 hours of his time, if we count the entire day worthy recovery, approximately 15 minutes if we just count taking the blood out of his body. The man in this case is not surrendering his autonomy in the “dangerous” way that angelo describes. (ii) Second, this “infringement of autonomy” is something that the government already has the right to infringe upon. It is required for children and PETS to have vaccinations to a variety of diseases. The government already sticks needles in our body for our own good. When people can’t pay for these vaccines, government health programs (state-based) pay for them. They do this to protect their citizenry, without restricting the autonomy on any significant level. The government restricts travel to nations with specific diseases, think avian flu (two/three years ago). (iii) In times of war nations call for mandatory or quasi-mandatory blood drives, not to even mention drafts. The government has a right to your blood if your blood can save the lives of others, and it is your civic duty to provide that blood, whether in combat or to the red cross. The government has a right to our blood if it can help society, the government has the right to stick needles in us to protect our health, seizing a pint of his mans blood is nothing beyond the governments already qualified right.

    Angelo attempts to persuade you by citing various other “rights” that individuals have to protect themselves against the government. If only he were educated to see that his examples more than prove why the government has a right to his blood.

    -Angelo brings up the X-Men. First, i would like to point out that the mutant Cable travelled back in time to infect Wolverine (he has healing powers) with a virus that has eradicated the entire world. He did this so that wolverines ability to mutate would provide the future world with the necessary vaccine and protect future lives. He did this by chaining Wolverine down - but the job of an X-Men is to protect lives, Wolverine’s liberty was violated, there was even a high potential for him to die, but his civic obligation, his sworn mutant duty as an X-Men was to protect the lives of innocent people, even at the cost of his own life. A sacrifice that he said in the end, he would have been more than willing, more than morally required to make.

    -Yes, a woman has the right to control her body. Potential rights are outweighed by personal rights. But by that standard the personal rights of millions of people outweigh this mans personal right to a pint of blood that will more than regenerate.

    -Yes, it is a crime to knowingly infect someone with AIDS. It is a crime to prevent someone from getting the emergency help that they need. It is the governments responsibility to protect citizens from harm, warning citizens that someone they have sex with has AIDS in advance is a responsible and morally necessary thing.

    - THe case of cancer is non applicable.

    3. Angelo cites the case that patients undergoing surgery should be forced to recieve HIV tests. Angelo claims this is a violation of liberty.. He could not be more wrong. Doctors work to protect people’s health. Surgery is a very bloody procedure. Doctors need to know whether or not an individual has HIV/AIDS in their blood to ensure specific safety procedures for their own health. If Angelo believes that patients should not be forced to have an HIV test, than i ask angelo to support the right of doctors not to operate on anyone. I ask angelo to support the right of fireman to not rush into a burning building. Rights are not absolute, its a cute idea in theory, but they’re not. Doctors have a duty to protect lives, patients recieving surgery have a responsibility not to KILL their doctors. if a doctor contracts AIDS/HIV - the risks of all his future surgeries and patients are far increased. by maintaining one mans right, you are harming literally hundreds of people, people who would normally be working either harmlessly or to actively protect other people. Regardless this point has no relation to the argument in question.

    4. Angelo says we shouldn’t harm this poor man with more blood tests. This man that investigated euthanasia, neglected his health willingly - this man does not need to be protected from “psychological harm.” Knowing his blood cured 70 million + people would surely negate needle scare. He could be sedated, any number of procedures can be done. The reality is that this man is ignoring the rights of others granted by the rights of nature. Mutations are passed on to ensure the survival of the human race. It is our right has members of this planet, and as a member of the human species, he must contribute. We all do, we all increase immunity, discover and develop new things, we all work and drive progress.

    This man is maintaining his right to liberty at the cost of his humanity. Animals don’t deserve liberty.

  5. Angelo Says:

    I believe my response can best be summed up with a quote from Ursula:
    You poor unfortunate soul
    It’s sad but true
    If you want to cross the bridge, my sweet
    You’ve got the pay the toll


    RE: your discussion on evolution, survival of the fittest and antibodies

    This is just silly. Everyone knows that the E-1101 serum was synthetic, that the real cure for mutaba came from that cute little monkey and that “we includes you, Sam.”

    RE: Me not wanting to infringe on autonomy equates to me arguing against ways of battling poverty

    Well, the ways in which the government fights poverty is through a series of entitlement programs, legislation and support for private initiatives. We can haggle about taxation all we want, but this situation is not remotely equivalent. Using this man’s blood is equivalent to private initiatives that battle poverty. So, yes, silly man, I would be against forcing people to volunteer, forcing people to actively engage in fighting poverty, taking away someone’s choice to let a poor person starve. You see, if we simply forced everyone to lend a very simple hand every once in a while the quality of life of a greater number of people than the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDS would be improved. But, we don’t. We accept the maxim that infringing upon people’s individual autonomy is a serious business and that it shouldn’t be taken lightly. Your analogy is weak.

    RE: Giving up just a pint isn’t a big deal

    Oh, you simple man. I even conceded that it’s a seemingly easy and simple thing to do and that’s why people are jumping all over it. First, you’ve already acknowledged that this guy was severely fucked up as a consequence of this whole HIV/AIDS thing. Perhaps he cannot endure any further analyzing, testing, procedures. Perhaps he’s accepted his own weakness and simply wants to move on. Perhaps, in that simple thumb prick we would be effectively ending his life (either by him committing suicide, or by causing him to spiral back into depression). The point is if you agree that us extracting all of his blood for research (and thereby killing him) would be wrong. If you agree that forcing him to endure 8 months, 6 months, 4 months, or 5 weeks worth of testing would be too much to impose. Then you are abandoning your utilitarian underpinnings and you simply agree with me that we cannot infringe upon his rights. At this point, it simply becomes a matter of degree. And I say, that at the point that you accept that in some instances we would be asking too much of him and thereby would not be justified in taking his blood then you lose any philosophical justification for your argument. I’m consistent. I say, we can’t force people to give up their autonomy and I follow that through because I recognize the importance of consistency.

    Let’s not even begin to discuss mandated government vaccinations or testing. I have two words for you: black people and syphilis. Enough said. Do you really trust the government to dictate certain things to you?

    It’s nice to know that you believe that the government has a right to your blood. I wasn’t aware of this. I was not aware that the government has the right to seize my blood, my DNA, perform tests on it. Hell, if I would be the absolute 100% best guinea pig then why can’t they seize me? Your draft argument doesn’t work, since we’re talking about government’s in general. I relinquish my right not to be drafted when I sign up for selective service. If I didn’t want to, I could simply move to a place that that didn’t force me to do that. But I thought about the benefits, I thought about the harms and I made that choice. If it was part of this gentleman’s country to also make a decision regarding biological property, and he chose to remain a citizen. Then that’s one thing.

    You’re trying to make this all about saving people. You’re trying to make this all about the great benevolent governments that only want to protect. But what are you really advocating? You’re advocating the government sanctioning the seizure of biological property for the greater good of academic interest and maybe, maybe, someday down the road a prescription drug that would sell for exorbitant amounts of money.

    What you Sir are advocating is a relinquishment of control/ownership over our biological identity and property. If these antibodies are so valuable (in this and in other instances) then why shouldn’t I have the right to sell MY blood/DNA/antibodies to the highest bidder? Why is it okay for anything that the government deems extremely valuable to the greater good to simply be seized? I’m sorry, I just disagree.

    I also disagree that this man’s blood is even as valuable as you purport it to be. I agree that it is academically interesting. That there are questions that arise as a result of it. But don’t you think that if it was thought that this man’s blood would actually lead to something tangible that pharmaceutical corporations would pay him buckets of money to get just the tiniest sample? Where’s the substance now for your invasion of autonomy, Brett?

    RE: Your response to my X-Men argument

    I believe you misunderstood me. I was saying that these X-Men are extremely academically interesting and that the government would LOVE to get their hands on their DNA for some simple testing. But alas, good people don’t support that. They don’t support it despite all the potential benefits because they acknowledge the need to protect autonomy and they recognize the baseless invasion of privacy. What do you say? Well, you say, “job of an X-Men is to protect lives.” It’s a slightly different circumstance, but recognize that you concede that Wolverine actively chose to be an X-Men. If this HIV guy was a Biological Crusader and then tried to renege later on or something. I’d probably say, “sorry man, you chose it.” But he didn’t elect to sacrifice any of his rights. Another analogy fails.

    RE: Your response to my abortion link

    I was simply saying that in this instance you’re arguing that the extremely tenuous potential link to something good justifies this invasion of personal autonomy. So, I simply say, “well follow that to its logical conclusion.” What if a fetus that is to be aborted may end up …. CURING HIV someday down the road? Or some other amazing break through! You can balk at this all you want but the potential that some kid is going to grow up to tangibly benefit others is about the same as the potential of this man’s blood having some tangible effect other than satiating the interests of some researchers.

    RE: Your notion of mutations as human property

    This is insane. If we really went by this argument then a whole bunch of nasty consequences result. First, mutations are not always beneficial. Secondly, they are not universal. Often times mutations are the result of living in a specific geography (ie: shape of Asians eyes, sickle cells, etc…). On face, your assumption that they are universal is just incorrect. Beyond that, what you’re basically saying is that I do not own anything in my body since it shares 99.9999999999% of its traits with other people. You can focus on the 99.99999999%, but I like to focus on that .000000001%. I appreciate that infinitesimal element in all of us that makes us unique individuals and not a bunch of giant insects. I want to protect that .00000001%, you want to ignore it for the greater good.


    Your utilitarian foundation fails at the point that you abandon it when it proves to be inconvenient.

  6. bda Says:

    Take A Gulp and Take a Breath
    and Go Ahead and Sign the Scroll…

    Despite the swaggering ego that comes with Angelo’s intellectual fortitute and discourse on this matter - again, he cannot help but be utterly ridiculous and wrong.

    On a side note, i would like to say that I am impressed that Angelo had the courage to watch the “scary scenes” involving Ursula - i would have expected it to have been overbearing. As for his ability to recite a Disney lyric - i take full and total credit for that influence.

    But like Angelo and Ursula said “if you want to cross a bridge, my sweet, you have to pay the toll.” If we want to cross the bridge to curing AIDS we have to pay a toll. My contention is as follows: Andrew Stimpson has a moral responsibility to provide his blood for scientific research/cure. If he does not accept that responsibility and denies his blood he is acting immorally and thus the government has a right to act.

    As Angelo ignored any scientific realities of this debate - I ask you to again consider the importance of mutation and the passing of genetic traits which grants us today this fabulous immunity. I’ll reference you to WAR OF THE WORLDS for lack of anything more creative. Without genetic mutation, for the development of antibodies, of individuals and them passing on that mutation either through having babies or through scientists developing vaccines, we would most likely all be dead.

    Next; I will agree that infringing on people’s individual autonomy is a SERIOUS business that can be very dangerous. But at the same time the benefits that can be recieved from minor (and i am talking very minor) infringements of “liberties” (again a contentious issue as to what exactly is a right) are overwelmingly more serious.

    Angelo tries to force me into contradiction: Allow me to explain, i uphold that the government can seize this mans blood ON ALL TERMS. While the reality would just be a minor prick in the arm - if need be i would support any means to retrieve this blood - if the man does not comply. While it would be obviously morally questionable to kill or imprison this man, the moral issue is so contentious because the infringement of liberty is so small, despite how large the principle is. This is where i will take a swipe at liberals who fail to see the nuances of liberty and “infringments” of it. A government would act ridiculously to imprison and kill this man for his blood - it would be unfair to assume that a body would act so irrationally. Angelo’s use of the slippery slope further shows his inability to form a solid argument against it other than the fact that it sets a “dangerous prescident”

    More importantly, individual autonomy and body is contentious. The government has a moral right and responsibility to vaccinate and quarantine citizens for medical reasons. Angelo dismisses this by citing rumors. In that case, Angelo is essentially saying that no good can come of government vaccination. So will 7/10 people reading this please commit suicide since you most likely have been saved either directly or indirectly by various vaccinations - polio, smallpox, plague, measles, mumps, and various other nasty buggers.

    Angelo did cite something interesting though. He writes “i relinquish my right not to be drafted when I sign up for selective services” Andrew Stimpson is a British citizen. By being a man born and living in the British Isles he has surrender specific rights to his body already. He recieves free health care - that is directed by a comprehensive British bureaucracy. His blood tests, doctors appointments, psychological therapy, AIDS medications (althuogh he opted not to take them) were all covered by the British people. His HIV+ partners medical expenses were covered by the British people. By accepting and recieving these services he has relinquished the right of his autonomy on his health to the government. This government (which i do believe a liberal would contend is acting quite benevolently) makes educated decisions regarding its constituents health. This government has also dedicated billions in the fight against HIV/AIDS worldwide. Logically, the government would have a right to reduce costs by developing a cure. Logically, the government would have a right to understanding the medical processes. Angelo’s contention that the government does not have authority over medical autonomy - while debatable in the US, is obsurd in this instance.

    Please note that Angelo has dropped all arguments regarding a doctors moral duty, individual moral duty and the deadliness of HIV regarding criminal laws. Individuals in society do have a moral duty to perserve the health of others. According to Angelo (not to me) this duty should supercede the risk to themselves.

    The Government would therefore be acting in the best interest of its people, ALL ITS people. So we can see a government has a moral duty - but lets look at Stimpson himself now.

    Angelo challenged me by bringing up the X-Men, and let that be his death. Lets have a basic lesson in superheroes, specifically the MARVEL world. Superheroes are individuals with great powers - in the Marvel universe these powers are caused by mutation. Usually, they did not choose these “gifts” in fact, almost none of them did. But all of them did acknowledge that with these mutations came a.. as cliche as spiderman put it “with great power comes great responsibility.” Wolverine is a superhero because of his mutation. Would we consider Superman moral if he had the possibility to easily save millions of people and decided that going to a movie was more important for him? It would be so dangerous we might even classify him as a default supervillian.

    Angelo dug a trench regarding a woman’s right to her body, but that really isn’t important or relavent. ignore it.

    Finally, human beings despite fancy society are still but animals with basic genetic codes. Natural laws govern that an individual mutation is passed on, in a world where man has escaped natural selection - science is the agent of passing it on. The laws of nature far outgovern the laws of men. We all have liberty and a right to life in society, but no one can escape natures law that everyone dies. Angelo looks to nature and claims that he wants to protect the .000001% of us that makes us unique. Funny, that .0000001% of us that makes us unique will die with this man when he dies… The only way to really protect it, to ensure its mark forever in the lives of mankind is to … pass it on.

    The reality is that this man is ignoring the rights of others granted by the rights of nature. Mutations are passed on to ensure the survival of the human race. It is our right has members of this planet, and as a member of the human species, he must contribute. We all do, we all increase immunity, discover and develop new things, we all work and drive progress.

    This man is maintaining his right to liberty at the cost of his humanity. Animals don’t deserve liberty. This man by denying his blood his acting immorally and irresponsibly. The governments job is to protect citizens and stop people acting immorally (thats why we have good samaritan laws). Moreover, in this case, Stimpson has already surrendered his body to the government, all they are asking for is for him to repay what he owes to himself, society and mankind.

  7. DaveyBoy Says:

    If his body cured itself of HIV, I hope doctors can figure out how it was done as he has no idea. I am wondering if maybe his HIV testing results simply got mixed up at the lab or maybe a “false positive”? It’s happened before…

    I hope he will agree to further tests to figure out how this happened, my son’s future (and millions of others, possibly a billion over the next 100 years) may just depend on a cure for HIV/AIDS as his mother and I have AIDS :(

    If his body’s genetic material contains infomation that we could harness to fight HIV in others (or at least help with a vaccine), should he be forced to go through vigoruos testing? If he believes that he was cured of having HIV for real, why doesn’t he just say poke and prod me for awhile to see what you can find out? I would…

    This could also be a hoax to somehow disprove that HIV/AIDS exists or is a health threat (there are many AIDS dissidents out there). Maybe a media stunt? I am just too damn cynical (tired of false hopes too)!

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