In 2013, the world began to witness an unprecedented Ebola epidemic in West Africa that is now smoldering. Ebola virus disease has a fatality rate of up to 90%, and there are no proven vaccines or targeted treatments for the disease to date. However, several interventions were in the earliest phases of testing at the beginning of this outbreak. Heated controversy quickly arose as to whether and how these unproven interventions should be used—among researchers, humanitarian health professionals, and the affected communities, but also among bioethicists.
Dr Annette Rid discusses the key points of ethical controversy and draws some important lessons for how we should use unproven vaccines and treatments during future epidemics.