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Bioethics Commission Urges US to Adopt Ethical Approach to Ebola & Health Preparedness

February 26, 2015
New Report recommends integrating ethics into emergency public health response

Today, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) argued that the federal government has both a prudential and a moral responsibility to actively participate in coordinated global responses to public health emergencies wherever they arise.

The report, "Ethics and Ebola: Public Health Planning and Reponse," details findings and recommendations from the commision on the ethical approach to tackling the Ebola epidemic around the world.  It argues that the United States must strengthen health infrastructure and emergency response capabilities, improve health communications, and integrate ethics expertise at every level of public health emergency planning and response.

“The Ebola epidemic in western Africa overwhelmed fragile health systems, killed thousands of people, and highlighted major inadequacies in our ability to respond to global public health emergencies,” Commission Chair Amy Gutmann, Ph.D., said. “It demonstrated the dire need to prepare before the next epidemic. A failure to prepare and a failure to follow good science — for example, by not developing vaccines and not supporting health care providers — will lead to needless deaths.”

MHRP Director, COL Nelson Michael, is a sitting member of the President's Bioethics Commission. The Bioethics Commission’s seven recommendations offer targeted policy and research design suggestions. For example, the Bioethics Commission recommended that the United States strengthen key elements of its domestic and global health emergency response capabilities. These include:

  • Strengthening the capacity of the World Health Organization to respond to global health emergencies through the provision of increased funding and collaboration with other international, national, and non-governmental public health organizations;
  • Identifying and empowering a single U.S. health official accountable for all federal domestic and international public health emergency response activities; and
  • Strengthening the deployment capabilities of the U.S. Public Health Service, including by streamlining command structure for deployment and providing appropriate resources to train and maintain skills needed for emergency response.

Read the full report here