Treating Ebola patients in various developed countries has posed some very serious ethical challenges for the clinicians. This is more so when these health care experts are required to offer urgent life- sustaining care in efforts of increasing the likelihood of the patient surviving.

Any institution that is handling Ebola patients should develop certain policies which can offer guidelines for clinicians that are offering various therapies like dialysis and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If Ebola was not present, decisions surrounding this kind of care would normally raise only very few questions. However, considering the kind of risk that healthcare workers are exposed to, this virus usually raises an ethical paradigm that is very unfamiliar for the hospital administrators and clinicians. And with the Ebola menace continuing to haunt us, you can help but sympathize with clinicians who are always exposed to the serious dangers of this disease in the course of doing their job.

An illustration of issues caused by Ebola

  • A patient suffering from Ebola shows a rapidly progressive hypovolemic shock which causes cardiac arrest is identified at the nurses’ station with a telemetry monitor. In such a situation, should the nurses perform CPR on the patient?
  • A patient who has profound hypokalemia resulting from diarrhea gets ventricular fibrillation. In this case, should the physician or nurse who already has protective equipment and taking care of the patient at bedside try electrical defibrillation as she uses an indwelling intravenous catheter in efforts of remedying the low potassium levels of the patient?
  • If the patient who has multisystem organ failure and shock becomes anuric and then develops respiratory failure signs, now should the clinician try to initiate hemodialysis or mechanical ventilation?
  • The patient who has advanced Ebola although stabilized gets what seems to be bedside ultrasonography as a result of a ruptured appendix. In this case, is it safe for the clinician to carry out an open appendectomy?

Ebola is actually the underlying condition

In all these scenarios, it is wise to evaluate them based on the benefits and risks on the side of just the patient if for example the condition in question is as a result of bacterial septic shock, Emanuel argue and Halpern.

However, Ebola is actually the underlying condition and it is also prudent that the risks that the clinicians face are also considered as well. When you consider the first two scenarios here above, you will realize that the profile of the risk benefit is somehow different. There is a likelihood that CPR will lead to bodily fluids being released as chest compressions are being undertaken and trying to put on protective gear will take some time that limits the effectiveness of the procedure. In all these cases, it is important to note that the risk of healthcare workers getting the disease can’t be overlooked in anyway.