Bioethics Blogs

Ebola: where is the rock concert benefit?

by Arthur Caplan, PhD and Nira Eyal, D.Phil

Ebola’s toll is rising exponentially. Millions of lives are at risk in West Africa, and panic is starting to take its toll in the rest of the world.

Normally in a crisis like this our best charitable impulses pour forth. Especially among musicians, Hollywood and artists. So why aren’t fund-raising drives taking place? Where are the rock concerts, fashion shows, triathlons we saw for famines and for AIDS? Why the extreme paucity of small private donations?

Some may think donations won’t help. Of course they would.

Donations could buy protective equipment and disinfectant for health personnel and for home care givers. Money can help pay for travel costs for health care workers and for building more isolation beds. Money will also get clean water and better sanitation to the very poor.

Donations could also pay for health workers’ time, so that more workers may be hired and heroic existing workers are not tempted to leave, or to strike for hazard pay.

In fact, donations would facilitate hiring and retention in more ways than one. Take the following—huge—example. The UN currently estimates that more than 120,000 women could die of complications of pregnancy and childbirth in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone over the coming year unless life-saving emergency obstetric care is urgently provided. A major bottleneck here is that without proper protective gear, even certified midwives are too afraid to provide emergency obstetric care—to any woman.

But with proper education, protective gear and training—that may be another story.

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.