Tag Archives: Ethics

The Ethics of Ebola

18 Oct

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Is anyone else a tinsy bit nervous about the Ebola crisis? The blame game has started, exposed people have been on airplanes and cruise ships. It is likely that Ebola may come very, very close to home. We are getting mixed messages about transmission from the media and the CDC. This is not about any more scary statistics. We are scared enough.

My question to you comes after a discussion I had in the Emergency Room tonight. I was working a shift and the nurses were discussing the lack of education they have on personal protective equipment, or PPE. We began talking about disaster preparedness and what our little ER in inner city minneapolis is prepared to do.

Here is the kicker. I was asked if I was willing to be a part of an ebola response team should it reach our community. A specialized task force to help treat and contain an Ebola crisis if it came to Minneapolis. The answer for me was yes, but I am conflicted.

As healthcare providers we sign up to help people in all circumstances. Sometime at the risk to our own health and well being. Particularly in the ER when we come across volatile patients, antibiotic resistant infections, blood-born illnesses, we have heightened risk compared to many other forms of medicine. We know what we are getting into as PAs. No one said this job was risk-free.

So why is it that Ebola is any different? There are nurses, docs, advanced practice providers and other medical personal that theoretically could opt op of caring for Ebola patients. What are the repercussions of this? What about the hippocratic oath? “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required”.

There are people dying in Africa because they don’t have access to basic healthcare facilities. There is a healthcare crisis as Ebola spreads, and people with treatable illnesses fall to the wayside. We have the privilege living here to have the equipment and knowledge to contain this disease. Is it our duty to help, or can we “opt out”? Is it selfish to avoid being involved? What do you think? Write your comments below.

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