July 9, 2006


What You Don't Know Can Kill (Regina Lynn, 7 July 2006, Wired)

It has long been illegal in California to knowingly pass a communicable disease, venereal or otherwise, to another person. But earlier this week, California's Supreme Court published a decision that makes us potentially liable for infecting our partners with HIV even if we did not know for certain that we were HIV-positive...
The decision was reached as part of a case, John B. v. Superior Court, (PDF) in which a woman named Bridget sued her husband John for allegedly infecting her with HIV. Bridget has tested HIV-positive, and John has been diagnosed with AIDS...
The Supreme Court's job was not to determine who got HIV first, but rather, the extent to which Bridget can investigate John's sexual history to find evidence for her allegations.
John apparently used the internet to meet men for sex even after he began dating Bridget, and continued to do so throughout the couple's engagement and marriage. Bridget wants details about his assignations to support her contention that he knew or should have known that he might be HIV-positive at the time he persuaded her to stop using condoms with him.
"The issue here is simply the extent to which Bridget may inquire into John’s medical records and sexual conduct in order to confirm or refute her allegations that John knowingly or negligently infected her with HIV," explains Justice Marvin Baxter in the majority opinion.
"The proposed discovery treads on important statutory and constitutional privacy rights. To decide what discovery should be permitted, we must balance Bridget’s right to discover relevant evidence against John’s right to privacy."

Good Lord.

Posted by Pepys at July 9, 2006 12:30 AM

The only place that the right to privacy has been enforced by the courts is in the bedroom. Behold the fruits of that act of bad faith.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at July 9, 2006 1:53 AM

Justice Baxter is a good judge, but anytime a judge states that the issue before the court is 'simply' this or that in a case like this, you know the resolution ain't gonna be simple.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at July 9, 2006 2:57 AM

Actually, it is pretty simple when postulated as John's right to kill Bridget vs. Bridget's right to defend herself against John.

And these days, self-defense isn't too popular a position to hold.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 9, 2006 3:34 AM


I agree with you in the context of marriage. But, I wonder, if caveat emptor shouldn't apply in other contexts.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at July 9, 2006 6:49 AM

Suing for damages aside, why would it be important that it be determined who had what when? In this as in all things, cherchez les bucks.

Posted by: erp at July 9, 2006 8:03 AM

He can't have gotten it from her as a matter of science.

Posted by: oj at July 9, 2006 1:52 PM