WHO panel deems use of experimental ebola treatments ethical

A panel of medical experts convened by the World Health Organization said on Monday that it is ethical to use experimental ebola virus treatments to combat the ongoing outbreak in West Africa.

The panel, which included bioethicists and other professionals from around the world, said the particular circumstances of the outbreak necessitated the use of the experimental drugs, which have unknown side effects and efficacy rates.

The group of experts said that ethical criteria must guide the use of the experimental treatments, including transparency regarding all aspects of care and freedom of choice. Data collected regarding the use of treatments must also be shared to better understand efficacy and safety, the panel said.

Other areas that the group identified as needing additional analysis include ethical ways to gather data while still providing treatment and ethical criteria for achieving fair distribution of treatments among countries.

A report on the proceedings of the meeting will be available on Aug. 17.

More than 900 people have died so far from the current ebola outbreak, which is the most severe in history. Two American healthcare workers who contracted the disease in West Africa are currently receiving experimental treatments at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.