Online Program

Ethics and Ebola: Recommendations from the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Lisa M. Lee, PhD, MS, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, Washington, DC
The 2014 Ebola epidemic in western Africa highlighted many ethical issues related to public health practice, research, and infrastructure.  The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues examined U.S. engagement in the global response to the Ebola epidemic, focusing on what lessons might be drawn from the recent U.S. response to Ebola at home and abroad.  It made recommendations that support policies and practices that enable a proactive response to public health epidemics.  It considered the public health emergency response to Ebola in three areas: 1) rationale for U.S. engagement in the global response to the ongoing western African epidemic; 2) the ethical use of liberty-restricting public health measures such as quarantine to control the epidemic, with particular attention to the implications of their use for the ability of health care workers to continue to perform their professional duties; and 3) research ethics, focusing on randomized placebo-controlled trials as well as collection, use, and international sharing of biospecimens.  The Commission recommended that the government, researchers, and public health organizations should integrate ethical inputs into public health preparedness planning before such emergencies occur to ensure ethical solutions to acute events and their longer-term consequences; should employ the least restrictive means necessary—based on the best available scientific evidence—when implementing restrictive public health measures such as quarantines; and should employ methodologically rigorous research capable of generating results that are clearly interpretable, acceptable to the host communities, and, to the extent possible, minimize delays to completing the research.

Learning Areas:

Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Identify three ethical dimensions of the 2014 western Africa Ebola epidemic List three recommendations that the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues made to address the ethical dimensions of public health emergencies

Keyword(s): Ethics, Emergency Preparedness

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I serve as the Executive Director of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and directed the analysis for these recommendations. I have been an epidemiologist and PH ethicist for >20 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.