Ethics: Fateful Decisions on Treating AIDS

New drugs and future vaccines confront doctors with tough choices

You're the doctor, and the patient is dying from AIDS. A new drug called azidothymidine (AZT) might temporarily suppress the virus and prolong his life. But you hesitate: AZT may do nothing for his manifestation of the disease. It could even hasten death. And prescribing the drug could bring malpractice suits, since AZT has so far worked only on AIDS sufferers with symptoms different from this patient's.

Do you let him go? Or do you risk everything on the chance of helping him?

These questions took on new urgency last week when the Anti-Infective Drugs Advisory Committee of the Food and...

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