Ebola outbreak in America vs. Africa

by jasminegrignon on November 10, 2014 - 9:36pm

In the article "Why is Ebola Less Deadly in America than in Africa?", published on Vox and written by Julia Belluz, the Ebola outburst in America is discussed. In addition to this, Belluz compares the Ebola outburst in America to the African situation, where people have been exposed to it for quite a while. The author begins by explaining that Ebola is a condition where people "die from multi-system organ failure" (Beluz). She then goes on by stating that we used to believe that Ebola was incurable, but that with its appearance in America, we have realized that it is, in fact, treatable. Ever since its arrival in the U.S., nine people have been affected by this disease, but only one person has died from it. In comparison, 70% of the Ebola victims in Africa end up facing death. When looking at these stats, an interesting question comes to mind: why is it that Americas are able to be cured from this illness, but that Africans cannot? The answer is quite simple. In the process of treating Ebola, the quality of nursing makes the difference between life and death. Evidently, African victims do not have access to the right medical assistance. First of all, there are very few doctors in Africa. Statistics report that in some African countries, the number of doctors out of 100,000 people can be as low as 1.4. On the other hand, in America, there are about 245 doctors per 100,000 people. Secondly, the few doctors and nurses in Africa do not work in a safe environment, which makes it quite easy for infections to spead. In fact, one of the nurses in Monrovia confessed that in an entire day, she only has access to five pairs of gloves. In other words, it is very common for a nurses to perform on patients with their bare hands. Based on these facts, Belluz claims that Americans are focusing on the wrong country when it comes to the Ebola epidemic. The ethical question addressed in this article is as follows: "Is it ethical for Americans to help Ebola victims in America before helping those in Africa?" The bigger question though, is, "Are we more ethically responsible to help people who find themselves to be in our local area, who live in a distant country, or both?"




From the statistics provided in the case study, I believe that the ethical thing to do is to help Africans who suffer from Ebola. My point of view is supported by the Act Utilitarianism Theory. Unlike Americans, Africans do not have access to good medical assistance: they have less doctors and do not treated in a sanitized environment. In consequence, there are much more victims in African than in America. In this case, it is important to consider everyone equally and to use the “maximizing utility”, in order to maximize happiness and minimize pain. To begin, there is no reason as to why Americans would have more value or access to help than Africans. This establishes the fact that neither of the two groups of individuals have more importance than the other, and reveals that both should be considered equally. Although, considering that there are more victims in African, it would be logical to help them out first. Donating money to this country would help advance medical researches or get doctors to treat African victims. Ultimately, this would save more lives than if we were donating to Americans. Here is a website providing more information on the Act Utilitarianism theory: http://www.iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/

In your article you addressed the question “is it ethical for Americans to help Ebola victims in America before helping those in Africa?” In reaction to this issue I would argue that prioritizing people in America is unethical and that people must help African people because they need it more. According to the theory of Act Utilitarianism, people must act in order to create the most happiness and to reduce pain (Nathanson). In that sense, by helping people in Africa we would create more pleasure because we can help more of them. For example, if a person had a 1000$ to spend in helping people, he might help only one person in America but by giving it to African people, it might impact fifty people. Consequently, as Bentham argues, helping Africa should be our priority because it creates greater happiness and helps more people. In addition, even if we do not spend a lot of money on curing Ebola in United-States, we still have great medical institutions that can cure sick patients. As mentioned in your article, there is a significant difference between the number of doctor in America than in Africa for the same amount of people. In conclusion, I hold the principle that people should help African people with Ebola before helping people here because it would maximize happiness.
Source: http://www.iep.utm.edu/util-a-r/#SH3a

To begin, my answer to your ethical question, which is: "Is it ethical for Americans to help Ebola victims in America before helping those in Africa?", I believe that it is unethical and I am basing my position on act utilitarianism. As you explained, the health system is much less developed in Africa, and the people that are affected by the disease there are much more susceptible to die of it than the Americans, according to the statistics that you wrote and the number of doctors available to take care of the population. Also, I believe that the statistics have proven that the numbers of people that die of Ebola in Africa is so incredibly bigger than the deaths of Americans due to Ebola that it is clear that by donating and helping the victims of Ebola, it would create much more happiness if money was given in Africa rather than in America. To support this idea, I am relying on the theory of act utilitarianism, since this theory states that we should consider the situation of everyone as equal, no matter if they are African of American. Also, this theory applies the principle of maximizing utility, which means doing what creates the more good and happiness for the more people. By donating and helping victims of Ebola in Africa, it would create more happiness for more people than if we helped fewer American victims of Ebola, because in America there are more costs related to health care, so with the same amount of money, it would benefit more people if it was given to the African population rather than the American one. If you are interested, the theory of act utilitarianism is more explained on the following website: http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/calculating.html.

Of course it is ethically wrong to help the few Americans (9 people, 1 death) who have suffered from ebola, rather than help the thousands of people (14,922, 11,065 deaths) who have suffered from the disease in Africa. However, the way this world works is not the way most would like it to. Countries will always prefer to help their own first before even attempting to help others. In my opinion, the ethical thing to do is to help the African people. The American government is more then capable of aiding those nine people in America who have the virus and also sending aid to Africa where it is more needed. The Americans clearly know how to treat this virus as only one person died out of the nine infected. The countries in Africa do not know how to approach this virus and in turn the death toll is 74% of those infected. Countries in Africa can surly use aid for this epidemic. In my opinion, the only things stopping the American government from sending aid to Africa is possibly contracting the virus (even though they have hazmat suits) and spending the money to do so. The only reason of why, in my opinion, America should send aid to Africa is because of the possibility of the disease spreading, which is a huge concern to many countries. Ebola is one of the deadliest diseases seen to man in a long time and it has to be dealt with. I have no doubt that the ethically right thing to do is help Africa with this epidemic.