20 July 2018

Ebola Experimental Drug Raises Ethical Dilemma

Ebola Experimental Drug Raises Ethical Dilemma
Image Courtesy : nationalpost.com

The use of experimental, unproven drugs to treat the Ebola virus is ethical, a panel of medical ethicists convened by the World Health Organization found on the 11th. The United Nations health agency’s statement comes hours after a Spanish missionary priest, who was being treated for Ebola with the experimental drug ZMapp, died on 12th in a Madrid hospital.

In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention, read a statement by WHO. The panel, consisting of 12 participants representing five continents, was convened after two American health-care workers operating in West Africa contracted the virus and were given an experimental “serum,” which was never before tested on humans, before they were flown back to the US. Liberian officials announced on Monday that the country would soon receive doses of the experimental Ebola drug and give it to two sick doctors there as well — the first non-Westerners to receive the drug.

There’s no reason to try this medicine on sick white people and to ignore blacks, according to Marcel Guilavogui, a pharmacist in Conakry, Guinea, and that they understand that it’s a drug that’s being tested for the first time and could have negative side effects. But we have to try it in blacks too. Some are using Social Media platforms such as Twitter to demand that the drug be made available. According to Aisha Dabo, we can’t afford to be passive while many more die, she is a Senegalese-Gambian journalist who was tweeting using the hashtag “GiveUsTheSerum” on Monday, and also added that, that’s why we raise our voice for the world to hear us.

The Americans are said to be improving, but there’s no way to know whether the drug helped, or if they are getting better on their own, as others have. Around 40% of those infected with Ebola are surviving the current outbreak. The panelists were tasked with two questions, according to the WHO’s website: Is it ethical to use unregistered interventions with unknown adverse effects for possible treatment or prophylaxis? If it is, what criteria and conditions need to be satisfied before they can be used? And, if it is ethical to use these unregistered interventions in the current circumstances, then what criteria should guide the choice of an intervention and who should receive priority for treatment or prevention?

The panel, which included medical ethicists, scientific experts and lay people, listed the ethical criteria that must be met in such interventions, stating the importance for transparency, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community in using experimental treatment on Ebola victims. The panel also expressed that there exists a moral obligation to collect and share all data generated, including in cases for compassionate use, such as the experimental serum given to the two Americans suffering from Ebola and flown back to the states. 

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