August 11, 2014 (San Diego) Ethics and memories of colonization are rising quickly. The three patients who have received the experimental medication given to Ebola Patients are two Americans and one Spaniard.
The Journal Times reported this, among others. Readers might ask why this is a problem? It raises the specter of the Colonial period, when the life of a Colonial Officer was always seen as superior to that of the colonized.
One of the reasons given is that the hosts countries do not have the sophisticated medical care delivery systems that can observe the evolution of a patient who just received a highly experimental drug. We have no idea what the side effects, short or long term, are for these drugs. For all we know, short term they will get better, but medium to long term they will develop deadly complications.
Yet, the optics of this remains with us. The only people who have received this experimental drug, which is in extremely short supply, are Westerners.
The Journal quotes an expert as such:
“It certainly looks bad that only three Westerners have gotten the drug while most of the people with Ebola are African,” said Art Caplan, director of bioethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. He said the drugmaker must make its policy for distributing its treatment clear. “I don’t think this scarce resource should just be given to whoever is best connected.”
This is bringing back memories of the colonial period, as well as quite possibly accusations of racism. Given how serious Ebola is in these countries of Guinea, Sierra Leon, Liberia and possibly Nigeria, we must also consider the optics and ethics of how and who gets this medication.
Moreover, the World Health Organization has declared this an International Health Emergency.
The WHO stopped short of calling for travel bans to and out of the region. But it did call for the most stringent of monitoring of travelers and to prevent those who are suspected of being sick from crossing borders or leaving by airplane.