Contact investigation in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis: ethical challenges

Summary


Contact investigation is an evidence-based intervention of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) to protect public health by interrupting the chain of transmission. In pursuit of contact investigation, patients’ MDR-TB status has to be disclosed to third parties (to the minimum necessary) for tracing the contacts. Nevertheless, disclosure to third parties often unintentionally leads the MDR-TB patients suffered from social discrimination and stigma. For this reason, patients are less inclined to reveal their MDR-TB status and becomes a significant issue in contact investigation. This issue certainly turns into a negative impact on the public interest. Tension between keeping MDR-TB status confidential and safeguarding public health arises in relation to this issue. Regarding MDR-TB management, patient compliance with treatment and contact investigation are equally important. Patients might fail to comply with anti-TB therapy and be reluctant to seek healthcare due to disclosure concerns. In order to have treatment adherence, MDRTB patients should not live through social discrimination and stigma arising from disclosure and TB team has a duty to support them as a mean of reciprocity. However, implementation of contact investigation as a public health policy can still be challenging even with promising reciprocal support to the patients because MDR-TB patients are living in different contexts and situations. There can be no straight forward settlement but an appropriate justification for each distinct context is needed to strike a balance between individual confidentiality and public interest.

Keywords: Confidentiality; Contact investigation; Disclosure; Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis; Public interest; Stigma

Citation/Ref

Oo, H. S., & Borry, P. (2024). Contact investigation in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis: ethical challenges. Monash Bioethics Review. 

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