Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is a fatal, transmissible, neurodegenerative disorder for which there is currently no effective treatment. vCJD arose from the zoonotic spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. There is now compelling evidence for human to human transmission through blood transfusions from presymptomatic carriers and experts are warning that the real epidemic may be yet to come. Imperatives exist for the development of reliable, non-invasive presymptomatic diagnostic tests. Research into such tests is well advanced. In this article the ethical implications of the availability of these tests are elaborated and comparisons drawn with predictive genetic testing for Huntington's disease and screening for HIV. Paramount to considerations is the issue of whom to test, weighing up respect for personal autonomy against obligations to benefit and protect society. A paradigm is proposed similar to that used for HIV screening but with unique features: compulsory testing of all blood/organ donors and individuals undergoing surgery or invasive procedures who have a significant risk of disease transmission.

Original publication




Journal article


J Med Ethics

Publication Date





625 - 630


Health Care and Public Health, Animals, Cattle, Clinical Protocols, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome, Decontamination, Disease Outbreaks, Ethics, Clinical, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, HIV Infections, Humans, Huntington Disease, Prions, Zoonoses