Ethical criteria for using unregistered medical interventions for Ebola

It is ethical to use unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects in the particular circumstances of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa, provided certain conditions are met.

This is the main conclusion of a panel of medical ethicists and scientific experts convened on 11 August by WHO to discuss the ethical implications of using unregistered interventions for the current EVD outbreak.

The ethical criteria include transparency about all aspects of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community.

As of 9 August 2014, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone have reported 1 848 cases (1 176 confirmed, 486 probable, 186 suspect), including 1 013 deaths. This largest EVD outbreak ever recorded has prompted the use of experimental therapies to save patients’ lives.