The Ethics of Ebola Trial Drugs: to give or not to give?

  • Ebunoluwa Olufemi Oduwole Olabisi onabanjo university
  • Kazeem Ademola Fayemi Lagos State University Ojoo, Lagos
Keywords: Ebola, Trial drugs, Ethics, West Africa, COMPASSIONATE USE, STEP-WEDGE, SMALL SCALE TRIALS


The 2014 outbreak of Ebola viral disease in some West African countries, which later spread to the USA and Spain, has continued to be a subject of global public health debate. While there are no yet registered vaccines or drugs on Ebola as they are at different clinical trial phases, moral questions of bioethical significance are emerging. This paper, through a normative and critical approach, focuses on the question of whether it is ethical to give any experimental drugs to Ebola victims in Africa or not. Given the global panic and deadly contagious nature of Ebola, this paper argues on three major compassionate grounds that it is ethical to use experimental drugs on the dying African victims of Ebola. Besides respecting patients and family consent in the intervention process, this paper argues that the use of Ebola trial drugs on West African population will be ethical if it does not violate the fundamental principles of transparency and integrity in human research ethics. Using Kantian ethical framework of universality as a basis for moral action, the paper establishes further that giving trial vaccines on compassionate grounds in the face of Ebola outbreak is ethical. It is only when such drugs are discriminately administered on non-principled bases that it raises more probing moral questions in the current global Ebola scourge.

Author Biographies

Ebunoluwa Olufemi Oduwole, Olabisi onabanjo university
Kazeem Ademola Fayemi, Lagos State University Ojoo, Lagos
BeOnline® Journal of the Center for Bioethics and Research