The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has infected and killed hundreds of people. While healthcare workers have been trying to quarantine the infected and prevent the virus from spreading, it has not stopped it and many people are afraid that the infection could spread to other parts of the world.
Two Americans who had been working with Ebola patients were infected with the virus and flown back to the United States for treatment. They were given an experimental drug and are said to be improving. Many people are wondering why this drug isn’t being used on people in West Africa or why it isn’t being manufactured in large quantities.
While some people think withholding a drug is unethical, some experts say it would be even more unethical to offer the drug to the infected people in West Africa.
— The Conversation (@ConversationEDU) August 12, 2014
The drug has so far only been tested on monkeys and the two American patients. This doesn’t mean that the drug is the reason they are recovering or that it is safe for use. The drug is still in the early stages of testing and only available in small samples. Those samples have already been taken and it could be months before more become available.
The drug has a wide range of possible side effects and while some people think the risks are worth it, many of the people in West Africa are uneducated and will not understand the risks associated with the medicine. Some people believe it wouldn’t be right to treat them with a drug if they don’t understand the consequences of taking it.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) August 8, 2014
Others say that the people infected with Ebola will likely not live without a treatment and believe that the doctors treating them should try everything they can to help them, even experimental drugs.
“You really worry how people in a vulnerable population will understand the risks,” one doctor said. “Do you think you can give informed consent, or are you likely to be coercive? How would I explain the risk of a brand-new drug to an African patient?”
Doctors are also afraid that there would be no way to judge the effectiveness of the drug or to determine if it is helping if it is just handed out to every infected person.
Do you think the drugs should be given to Ebola patients in Africa or should the drug have to go through the same testing and approval process of any other medication, regardless of how badly it is needed?
Image via Wikimedia Commons