ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ebola Virus Disease

The Ebola virus disease, which spread in four West African countries, brought to light the feeble health governance system not only in these countries but also at the global level. Weak health infrastructure, resource crunch, non-viability of preventive and curative medication, and distrust of foreign interventions among people not only aggravated the crisis but also led to a schizophrenic portrayal of the disease across the world. A lack of any preventive medication for Ebola--despite a history of recurrence over the last four decades--is a big question confronting health research communities, pharmaceutical companies and global health governing agencies. The recent outbreak of Ebola and a global security threat perception associated with the disease have given rise to many debates, one of them being the debate on medical ethics in a public health emergency. All the ethical issues related with the unavailability of medication, launch of untested medicine in affected areas and also the delay in decision-making and response are the core arguments which this article tries to analyse.

Ethics in Medical Research

Last month the US Congress decided to send to the Senate a bill banning all research on human cloning, further polarising the debate among scientists and ethicists. The flurry of exchanges, some of them surprisingly sharp, have thrown up issues which are perhaps the most significant in the realm of science, ethics and human welfare since the second world war and the horror of Nazi experiments on prisoners. If the latter triggered the first major debates on the interface between scientific progress and ethical and human values, this current debate worldwide on human cloning and stem cell research brings into focus the problems that are going to become increasingly complex over this century, no matter how this particular issue is decided. At the core of the debate is the troublesome question of the degree to which scientific endeavour, particularly as it relates to health and longevity of humankind, should be allowed to set its own pace without reference to the possible negative consequences during the process of development or even afterwards. The focus of concern is as much whether such pursuit is necessary at all as the process of research.

The Budget: Wrong Priorities in Health

Because vocal, visible metropolitan India is relatively well-served, there is a general sense that the country is over the hump – communicable diseases are a thing of the past. This has brought about a transformation in the way they are treated. For instance, cases of malaria are no longer a public health concern, but a matter for the neighbourhood doctor and pathology laboratories. Leprosy impinges on people’s consciousness only as what happens to the less fortunate. And TB is too personal to even talk about, but is entirely curable. 

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