Arthur L. Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center’s Department of Population Health writes:
What should happen if a massive viral outbreak appears out of nowhere and the only possible treatment is an untested drug? And who should receive it? The two American missionaries who contracted the almost-always-fatal virus in West Africa were given access to an experimental drug cocktail called ZMapp. It consists of immune-boosting monoclonal antibodies that were extracted from mice exposed to bits of Ebola DNA. Now in isolation at an Atlanta hospital, they appear to be doing well.
It’s an opportunity the 900 Africans who’ve died so far never had. Is there a case to suspend ethical norms if lives might be saved by deploying an experimental drug?
The answer, he says, is “partly about logistics, partly about economics and, partly about a lack of any standard policy for giving out untested drugs in emergencies.” But, he adds, that privileged people always get the first shot at experimental drugs in an emergency.
Is that as it should be? Is there anything that can be done about it?
Meanwhile, a legislator who is both anti-immigrant and none-to-bright is attempting to use the Ebola outbreak in Africa as a club against refugee children from Central America and the usual suspects are attempting to prove which of them is the most hard-hearted.