11 Sep, 14 | by BMJ
Guest post by Aminu Yakubu, Morenike Oluwatoyin Folayan, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, Patrick Nguku, Kristin Peterson, and Brandon Brown
In our article “The Ebola Outbreak in Western Africa: Ethical Obligations for Care” we focus on the health care system’s ability to combat the recent epidemic of Ebola in Western Africa. This is a timely and urgent issue. Many medical ethicists – including those called upon by the WHO – are focusing on availability of experimental drugs, but little is being discussed about on-the-ground care and human rights. By the time this article was written, in August 2014, there were 1145 deaths from Ebola. In the news, Ebola treatment facilities were being taken over by armed civilians who stole medicines to protect themselves, resulting in Ebola patients fleeing for their lives and further spreading the virus. This action has taken a toll on an already limited infrastructure.
The unspoken heroes of the Ebola epidemic are the healthcare workers who brave potential infection to save the lives of those infected. In Nigeria, nine health care workers were infected, and three health care workers had already died by the time this blog was written. With this news, willingness of medical staff to provide care for patients with Ebola virus is limited, as the danger to their own life is great. Moral obligations of healthcare staff to provide care should have limited sanctions for non-compliance so as not to infringe on the healthcare workers right to life. Workers who do care for Ebola patients must be provided with adequate protective equipment and a safe working environment, as well as compensated if they become infected in the course of duty. Traditional public health ethics has paid little attention to the protection of the rights of healthcare workers, but the Ebola epidemic has brought this issue to the forefront. Its time those who are responsible for saving our lives have a voice.
Read the full paper here.
UPDATE: Brandon Brown emails:
I just received a nice on the ground photo (Ebola decontamination) from my collaborators in Nigeria if we can attach to the blog entry. [Click image for bigger.]