Ebola and ZMapp drugs

by kayla.poirier25 on February 16, 2015 - 2:02pm

In the article " Ebola drugs raise ethical dilemmas " CBS news, Denis Thompson addresses the issue of the deadly disease, Ebola, and it's treatment. This viral disease is said to have 90% fatality rate. However, a drug called ZMapp has been tested on monkey's who carried the disease and was been proven affective. Although, there is a dilemma in letting this untested drug availible for sick humans. There is a multiple of questions to be asked. There is is risks in taking this medication, the article says that two people actually decided to test the drugs after knowing it was their only hope. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol , according to the media, have been recovering. The drug, ZMapp is limitied, and takes several months to have the new supply , therefore, the debate has everyone thinking to whom the drug will go to first? And who will have to wait several months? 

The principle I hold would be to give the medication to the sickest people affected by Ebola, also, to the people who dealt with the disease the longest. The reason being is that why would we waste several months watching people dying? During these several months while waiting for the new supply the ZMapp medication should be used to save sick people who are about to let go. The academic journal article "Revresion of advanced Ebola virus disease in non-human primates with ZMapp", International weekly journal of science, says that  " ZMapp is able to rescue 100% of rhesus macaques when treatment is initiated up to five days post-challenged." Therefore, it taks up to five says for the illness to die out and energy to kick in, which, in my opinion, is not that bad. If we could save people who have the virus Ebola in five days with the ZMapp drug, why not go ahead and do it. A counterargument to the principle I hold could be what is there are a lot more people dying than the amount of medication why have during those several months? Who will be choosen to recieve the medication and why? Considering that people might disagree with my conclusion and ask these questions, I think that at the fatal point that we are, might as well go randomly, because ethically, nobody deserves to recieve the treatment more than somebody else. To conclude, the ethical dilemma concerning the ZMapp drug creates a huge debate  since it can cause irritated and concerned people no matter the decision. 

Thompson,D. (2014). "Ebola drugs raise ethical dilemmas" CBS News retreived from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ebola-drugs-raise-ethical-dilemmas/ 

Xiangguo,Q. (2014). "Reversion of advanced Ebola virus disaese in non-human primates with ZMAPP". International weekly journal of science. retreived from http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vnfv/ncurrent/full/nature13777.html 


The question as to how to go about distributing the Ebola medicine raises ethical questions that involve both medicinal ethics and moral concerns. I agree with your essay that we should not be waiting around to decide on who deserves it more, but rather take action to defeat the viral disease. I will further expand on your argument with the philosophical approach of utilitarianism.

A hallmark of utilitarianism is to take actions that will approach you to the end goal, or sunnum bonum, which is to achieve the greatest good for humanity. Given this statement, the ZMAPP medicine should maximize its production in the shortest time frame possible and be distributed to all those in need. However, we do not live in a perfect world. There are limits of time and resources, thus creating a shortage in which not all Ebola victims can receive the drug. To deal with this scarcity, your point to randomly select patients who will receive the medicine fits with the utilitarian approach of impartiality. There must not be a bias to those with connections or more wealth to afford the cure, as all patients should be treated equally.

This article raises some very interesting questions about the allocation of medical resources. Your point that ZMapp should be distributed randomly is commendable. However,it seems to be leaning towards the deontological and Kantian world views where the result of an action is not as important morally as the intention, and humans should never be used as a means to an end. While your idea makes sense morally as it is impossible to ethically decide who should receive life saving treatment and who does not, it might not be the most efficient method to combat a disease.

In an Utilitarian world view the idea of sommum bonnum is prevalent. Sommum bonnum is where an action should be taken when it will benefit the greatest number of people and bring the least amount of pain. In this case the Utilitarian world view can be applied to further the efficiency of the drug. This is because if it is given to those who have a greater chance of surviving,not randomly ,the drug's effects on humans can be better studied and thus research will be furthered. This can in the long run make the drug more capable of fighting Ebola, therefore benefiting more people.

I commend your ability to look beyond the class system and to think of what would be the greatest good for the greatest number of people. However, it is important to think of how realistic providing a potentially life saving drug, such as ZMapp, randomly to patients all over affected areas of the world. Seeing as it is a new treatment, the results of the treatments would have to be tracked, doctors would have to be trained specifically in the distribution of these treatments, and institutions would need to be developed surrounding the drug. While it would be ideal to be able to randomly distribute a treatment evenly over a relatively large area (about 3 countries), it's simply not feasible. A more realistic framework to follow would be to start by planting the drug in the largest Ebola treatment centres in the region, make sure doctors are trained and able to see the results of the drug, and then develop a more simple and general procedure for the administration of the drug, so that it can be effectively distributed in more remote regions.

About the author