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Bioethics Director Comments on the Ethics of Treating Ebola with Experimental Drugs

On August 19th, Voice of America interviewed Bioethics director Robert Klitzman to uncover the ethics behind treating the fast-spreading virus Ebola with experimental new drugs that have not been tested on human subjects.

Two treatments have emerged: Zmapp, which is no longer available, and an experimental vaccine, which remains in short supply. However, neither of these drugs has been tested on human subjects.

Klitzman said that implementing these unproven medications raises ethical issues: "Does it work? What should we tell people? What if it makes people worse? We want to make sure people understand that there are risks involved. If we have a limited supply, we need to decide who should get the vaccine or medication and who should not."

Klitzman emphasized the need for clinical trials of the new treatments: "We need to give it in a controlled way where we can see who got it, what happened, does it work, does it make them worse?"

In a statement, the World Health Organization (WHO) called the current Ebola epidemic "unprecedented," which means that patients as well as clinicians are scrambling for an effective — and proven — treatment.