Ethics is one of the important factors that help in determining disease prevention control measures and policies regarding the different methods used during control. In our current society, notifiable diseases have primarily been recorded and identified by various health authorities due to the exposed potential dangers. Contact tracing is one of the most common methods employed in the public health sector to identify individuals who have contracted any notifiable disease which leads to isolation to treat the infected and reduce the infections in the population (Francis & Francis, 2021). However, contact tracing has raised ethical issues on conflicting values and rights due to tension between communities, individuals, and cultural beliefs.
In relation to individual patients, contact tracing has led to stigmatization, medical privacy loss and confidentiality issues, abuse, discrimination and led to individual fear of seeking medical treatment. Health care providers and activists have expressed concerns on disease stigmatization whereby there is a lack of knowledge on the specific disease, leading to cultural misunderstanding (Selgelid, 2016). This leads to unjust abuse and discrimination, as seen in cases of antiretrovirals, where women are reluctant to take in fear of abandonment by their husbands. Stigma can only be eliminated by proper public health education. In addition, patients are entitled to medical privacy and confidentiality, which is broken off when it comes to contact tracing due to exposure to media technologies. The only solution is to have doctors disclose the least amount of information in achieving contact tracing objectives.
Contact tracing alone is insufficient without other prevention measures, especially when it comes to notifiable diseases. Contact tracing involves finding close contacts of a person infected by a virus or notifiable disease and letting them undergo self-isolation. However, it also requires other means like social distancing and screening of individuals to be most effective. If contact tracing is eliminated, the public health sector might be unable to contain a disease outbreak. This would be primarily caused by a lack of identifying, assessing, and managing any exposed people. Additionally, individuals with a higher risk of severe disease might be unable to undertake quick medical care.
Public health and partner notification are kinds of contact tracing that are mostly referred to as a subset of contract tracing, which is aimed at informing partners of an infected person to address their health issues (Pagliari, 2020). Public health and partner notification are ethically permissible when the objective is to increase public health safety, and the sharing of the data or information can help reduce a global health crisis. Partner notification can be ethically permissible to only sexual or needle-sharing partners since it directly affects their health status. In most countries, these measures have already been incorporated as part of the laws, and failure to do this may lead to criminal charges.
Conclusively, the contact tracing method is a pillar in controlling infectious diseases in the public health sector. The practice should never be eliminated since it can break chains involved in disease transmission through rapid identification, clinical care of cases, and isolation. However, public health education should be enhanced to educate and inform people on the contact tracing method in order to avoid stigmatization and loss of personal medical privacy and confidentiality. As seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing has been used to understand infected individuals and contain the exposure of the virus. Contact tracing is one of the disease prevention control measures and should be implemented in all health sectors to enhance public health safety.
Francis, J. G., & Francis, L. P. (2021). Sustaining surveillance: The importance of information for public health. Public Health Ethics Analysis. Web.
Pagliari, C. (2020). The ethics and value of contact tracing apps: International insights and implications for Scotland’s COVID-19 response. Journal of Global Health, 10(2). Web.
Selgelid, M. J. (2016). Disease prevention and control. Public Health Ethics Analysis, 95-136. Web.