Research ethics and international epidemic response: The case of ebola and marburg hemorrhagic fevers

Public Health Ethics 2 (1):7-29 (2009)
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Institute for Biomedical Ethics, Geneva University Medical School * Corresponding author: Médecins Sans Frontières (OCG), rue de Lausanne 78, CH-1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 (0)22 849 89 29; Fax: +41 (0)22 849 84 88; Email: philippe_calain{at} ' + u + '@' + d + ' '//--> Abstract Outbreaks of filovirus (Ebola and Marburg) hemorrhagic fevers in Africa are typically the theater of rescue activities involving international experts and agencies tasked with reinforcing national authorities in clinical management, biological diagnosis, sanitation, public health surveillance and coordination. These outbreaks can be seen as a paradigm for ethical issues posed by epidemic emergencies, through the convergence of such themes as: isolation and quarantine, privacy and confidentiality and the interpretation of ethical norms across different ethnocultural settings. With an emphasis on the boundaries between public health investigations and research, this article reviews specific challenges, past practices and current normative documents relevant to the application of ethical standards in the course of outbreaks of filovirus hemorrhagic fevers. Aside from commonly identified issues of informed consent and institutional review processes, we argue for more clarity over the specification of which communities are expected to share benefits, and we advocate for the use of collective definitions of duty to care and standard of care. We propose new elaborations around existing normative instruments, and we suggest some pathways toward more comprehensive approaches to the ethics of research in outbreak situations. CiteULike Connotea What's this?



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Samia Hurst
University of Geneva