Moral, ethical and human rights arguments for using experimental and clinically unproven drugs to combat the Ebola Virus Disease




This article discusses and considers the arguments in favour of using clinically unproven medicine in the fight against terminal diseases, with specific reference to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Africa. In particular, this proposition is supported from a moral, ethical and human rights-based approach. To this end, two philosophical foundations are considered, namely the utilitarian theory of morality and the rights-based approach. Furthermore, emphasis is placed on the role of African leadership in putting in place best and co- ordinated measures to combat EVD. An analysis of the use of clinically untested or unproven drugs is articulated by analysing the famous American case of Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs. From a utilitarian perspective, access to unproven drugs may only be morally and ethically justified if it will positively combat EVD. In terms of the rights-based approach, access must be in the public interest and should not violate the rights of other persons. After considering scholarship that argues for and against the creation of a constitutionally guaranteed right of access to unproven drugs, it is concluded that a delicate balancing of all relevant issues is not as easy as it appears. Nevertheless, the article recommends that African governments leverage the 2014 statement by the WHO that it is ethical to use untested drugs subject to meeting certain conditions in their efforts to combat EVD.


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