WHO Says Use of Experimental Ebola Interventions Is Ethical
(GENEVA) — The World Health Organization has given the green light for the use of experimental Ebola treatments to combat the deadly virus or prevent it from spreading.
“It is ethical to offer unregistered interventions as potential treatments or prevention,” WHO Assistant Director General Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny said.
As West Africa is being hit with what the WHO calls the “largest, most severe and most complex outbreak of Ebola” in history, scientists have developed drugs and vaccines that could counter the virus, but sit only behind one obstacle — that these interventions have yet to be tested on humans.
“This is an opportunity to right a wrong of history that it is only relatively recently, in the last decade, that researchers have begun investigating interventions for Ebola,” said WHO Assistant Director-General Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny.
But the WHO says that provided certain conditions are met, the unproven interventions should be available options for patients. The conditions, or ethical criteria, include transparency about all aspects of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community. The WHO panel of consultants tasked with assessing the ethical implications of using unproven interventions adds that there is a “moral obligation” to collect and share any data that is generated from the use of these drugs.
While the two American health care workers who contracted the disease in Liberia have been given medications not yet tested on humans, the WHO panel has not specified which treatments it would condone or where the drugs should be sent.
“We do not get involved into the discussion about who should get what drug at the moment,” Kieny said.
The UN Health agency says over 1,000 West Africans have died as the outbreak continues to grow. Nearly 2,000 more cases have been recorded.
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