by Abha Saxena, in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics
The current outbreak of Ebola in western Africa has been unprecedented for various reasons, mostly because of its magnitude, its expansion across the borders of several countries of the region, and its propagation in capital cities. The outbreak initially involved no more than a few hundred people mainly in the rural parts of Africa, but by mid-September it had affected more than 5800 persons and caused more than 2500 deaths in four countries (mainly in urban locations). It is still not showing any signs of decreasing in intensity. This epidemic has brought to the fore many issues which have implications that go beyond just Ebola and western Africa. For example, it has highlighted the ever-widening social and economic inequalities within and between countries; the globalisation and interconnectedness of our world today; and the dire economic consequences of epidemics – this outbreak of Ebola has had the power to close down ports and airports, as well as seal borders. The outbreak has also brought to the fore a number of ethical issues, some of which have been raised during earlier epidemics, and some of which are novel.