EBOLA and ETHICS – The Unfinished Agenda
The Global Health Ethics Unit of the World Health Organisation, the Wellcome Trust & the WHO Collaborating Centre for Global Health Histories
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by John Pringle
(version français à la suite)
“Every ship is unsinkable, until it sinks” (Crawley, 2010). So it is with human rights: inviolable until they are denied. The right to protection from war, the right to maritime rescue, the right to seek asylum, the right to life’s necessities, the right to health care, and the right to be treated humanely and with dignity: the words are failing the very people they were written to protect. Who would have thought, that in the 21st century, we would have to argue defensively for pulling drowning people from the sea. The humanity principle – that people are entitled to assistance and to be treated humanely simply by virtue of being human – is not and never has been a given. Lives are not valued equally, some not at all.
That human lives are undervalued may come as a shock. Unless you are an aid worker. As an aid worker, you may have seen a child die for lack of a ten cent measles vaccine – measles kills about 400 children every day (WHO, 2015). You may have seen a patient suffer for lack of an available treatment – diseases of poverty are invisible to pharmaceutical companies (Access Campaign, 2015). As an aid worker, you will have witnessed how the global economic system values people for their wealth. And it values profit. Apart from that, it sees nothing of value (Patel, 2010).
The Global Refugee Crisis is a stark reminder that we live in a world of disparity. The old mantra, “a rising tide lifts all boats”, argues that what is good for the economy is good for everybody. But in the context of a Mediterranean graveyard, the rising tide cliché is not just ironic but grotesque. After decades of neoliberal economic policies, the tide has lifted only luxury yachts and military patrol vessels.
Read More “The Rising Humanitarian Tide”
Check out the latest edition of the Reflections newsletter and archives of past issues.
In the Autumn edition:
- HumEthNet member Stephanie Nixon is profiled In Focus;
- Maria Berghs provides a provocative commentary on “Disability and humanitarian healthcare ethics”;
- A rich collection of new publications are listed including a new bioethics case study published by HumEthNet members on the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada website, and the recently released report by Handicap International Disability in Humanitarian Context; and
- The launch of the humanitarian health ethics research group’s newly redesigned website.
Be sure to contact us with comments on this or any previous edition, or if you want to contribute to the next issue.
A timely event of interest to many HumEthNet members. From Medical Anthropology Switzerland (MAS), a one-day colloquium with providers’ and migrants’ perspectives on the provision of healthcare for [undocumented] migrants.
Colloquium event: October 10, 2015 Registration deadline: September 5, 2015
Case studies are made available for a variety of training and reflection purposes. They can be used in conjunction with the Humanitarian Health Ethics Analysis Tool (HHEAT) or on their own.
Patient Transfer During Period of Heightened Security Threat
Setting: A field hospital set up by a team of foreign health care practitioners working with an international non-governmental organization, in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that destroyed major infrastructure including public buildings and hospitals. The field hospital is situated in a rural area outside the capital and run in collaboration with local staff from a health clinic that was destroyed by the earthquake.
Read the full case.