Bioethics Blogs

Ebola and Human Nature

With over half of the posts on this blog in the past 2 weeks being about Ebola I was hesitant to write more about it, but I will anyway. In the midst of daily e-mails from the hospital system I work for about mandatory Ebola screening training and containment procedures and questions from the students where I teach it is hard to avoid thinking about this outbreak of a devastating disease and how we are responding to it.

One of the things that I find most interesting about our response to this disease is what it tells us about ourselves and what we value. When I wrote about this issue last month the focus of the discussion by a group of students was on how the Ebola outbreak was being treated in West Africa. Now the focus is how we can protect Americans from exposure to the disease.

Whether we focus on how we can best help the people of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea where thousands have died and continue to die from this disease or focus on how to protect ourselves from a very small but still existent risk tells us about what we value. As a society we tend to be very averse to putting ourselves and those close to us at risk. The same values that have us asking every patient whether they have traveled to West Africa and quarantining people who are not ill are the ones that cause parents to refuse to immunize their children out of fear of a child having a rare adverse reaction and banned Ryan White from going to school during the early days of AIDS.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.