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Reconsidering the Ethical Permissibility of the Use of Unregistered Interventions against Ebola Virus Disease

  • JOSHUA T. LANDRY, THOMAS FOREMAN and MICHAEL KEKEWICH
Abstract:

Ethical considerations for the use of unregistered interventions for Ebola virus disease have sparked considerable debate among academic and clinical ethicists. In August 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a panel of experts to discuss approaches to the outbreak in West Africa, with the goal of determining "whether it is ethical to use unregistered interventions with unknown adverse effects for possible treatment or prophylaxis”.1 The panel concluded that there would be an ethical imperative to provide such unregistered interventions if specific criteria could be met. This paper evaluates the WHO conclusion and argues that although it may be reasonable to provide unregistered interventions considering the circumstance, there is no clear ethical imperative to do so.

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Notes

1. World Health Organization. Panel discussion on ethical considerations for use of unregistered interventions for Ebola virus disease. WHO webpage 2014. Retrieved from: [http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/ethics-panel-discussion/en/]. Accessed: 13th August, 2014.

2. World Health Organization. Panel discussion on ethical considerations for use of unregistered interventions for Ebola virus disease; 2014; available at http://www.who.int/csr/disease/ebola/ethics-panel-discussion/en/ (last accessed 13 Aug 2014).

3. World Health Organization. Ethical considerations for use of unregistered interventions for Ebola virus disease; 2014; available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2014/ebola-ethical-review-summary/en (last accessed 13 Aug 2014).

4. World Health Organization. Ethical Considerations for Use of Unregistered Interventions for Ebola Viral Disease: Report of an Advisory Panel to WHO; 2014; available at http://www.who.int/csr/resources/publications/ebola/ethical-considerations/en/ (last accessed 18 Aug 2014).

5. World Medical Association. World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki: Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects (Amended Seoul, 2008). Helsinki: World Medical Association General Assembly; 1964; available at www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/17c.pdf (last accessed 13 Aug 2014).

6. See note 3, WHO 2014.

7. Emanuel, EJ, Wendler, D, Grady, C. What makes clinical research ethical? JAMA 2000;283(20):2701–11, at 2706.

8. Rusczek, A. Informed consent in clinical trials: Will the proposed changes to the common rule address current criticisms? Journal of Clinical Research Best Practices 2013;9(2):16, at 1.

9. See note 2, WHO 2014, at 5.

10. See note 4, World Medical Association 1964.

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Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
  • ISSN: 0963-1801
  • EISSN: 1469-2147
  • URL: /core/journals/cambridge-quarterly-of-healthcare-ethics
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