News / Health

    Ebola Drug Poses Question of Ethics in Treatment

    A Spanish priest infected with Ebola was evacuated last week from Monrovia to a hospital in Madrid, where he died on August 12.A Spanish priest infected with Ebola was evacuated last week from Monrovia to a hospital in Madrid, where he died on August 12.
    x
    A Spanish priest infected with Ebola was evacuated last week from Monrovia to a hospital in Madrid, where he died on August 12.
    A Spanish priest infected with Ebola was evacuated last week from Monrovia to a hospital in Madrid, where he died on August 12.

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Kim Lewis

    As the death toll from the Ebola virus disease continues to soar in several West African countries, an experimental drug called ZMapp was administered to two U.S. missionaries who contracted the virus while working with Ebola patients in Liberia. 

    The two patients are reportedly doing well in an Atlanta hospital, but a Spanish priest tested positive for the virus in Monrovia may have received the same drug before dying in a Madrid hospital.

    The drug was developed by a U.S. pharmaceutical firm but has not been tested for safety or effectiveness on humans. Dr. Philip M. Rosoff says this is the problem with experimental drugs that have never been clinically tested in humans.  One does not know whether or not they will work -- and on whom do they work. 

    Rosoff is professor of pediatrics and medicine,the director of clinical ethics at Duke University Hospital in Durham, North Carolina and author of the recently released book, “Rationing Is Not a Four-Letter Word: Setting Limits on Healthcare.”

    He spoke on the ramifications of using an untested drug to treat humans.

    The risk of unanticipated toxicities

    Among the many risks of using an untested drug to treat humans, Rosoff says “there are the risks of unanticipated toxicities.” But because there is no known cure the disease, the World Health Organization has permitted the use of untested treatments. The question is then, who will get the limited supplies?

    He says that in desperate situations such as West Africa where only 10 percent of those who contract Ebola survive, doctors must approach it with a great deal of caution, care and thoughtfulness.

    “Desperate people are willing to take desperate measures to save their lives or the lives of their loved ones,” said Rosoff. “And those who would hold out hope to those desperate people need to take great care that the hope is not portrayed in an inappropriate or unrealistic manner.”

    He emphasizes it would be impossible to know if this drug is effective upfront since no experiments as far as he knows have been done to show that it is effective in people, or not effective for that matter.

    In determining who should receive the drug, the same manner of care and thought should go into the decision.

    How to ration life-saving treatments

    “This is a classic rationing problem, and you have to decide to whom to administer. These kinds of decisions should not be made behind closed doors, but should be expeditiously managed and discussed openly about how the rationing choice will be made,” Rosoff said.

    For example, he points out, you may decide to treat healthcare workers first because they are the front-line defense for Ebola. The first contact with the patient and sick people cannot be cared for if there are no health workers to take care of them.

    “Other considerations are - should you give it to the sickest people first, or should you give it to those who might be thought medically to have the best opportunity to survive,” Roseff said.

    Once you have identified a class of people who are the first to be eligible for the drug -  such as first-line health workers - there are many ways to decide how others in need should get the drug.

    “Some people think that a lottery or coin toss mechanism is the fairest.  Other people think first-in-line – first-come, first-served – might be the fairest.  The problem with first-come, first-served is that tends to privilege people who can get there first, and that’s sometimes people who have access to information or transportation,” Rosoff said.

    Consideration must be done carefully and transparently so everyone knows what the rules are.

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora