Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post – Most powerful lesson from Ebola: We do not learn our lessons


This article is cross posted from the OUPblog.  To see the original article please follow this link:


‘Ebola is a wake-up call.’


This is a common sentiment expressed by those who have reflected on the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It is a reaction to the nearly 30,000 cases and over 11,000 deaths that have occurred since the first cases of the outbreak were reported in March 2014. Though, it is not simply a reaction to the sheer number of cases and deaths; it is an acknowledgement that an outbreak of this magnitude should have never occurred and that we as a global community remain ill-prepared to prevent and respond to deadly global infectious disease outbreaks.

The idea that this outbreak serves as a wake-up call is intended to provoke governments, global health leaders, researchers, and health care providers to identify the deficits in how the outbreak was managed. (Was the response too slow? Did governments or global health authorities fail to meet their obligations?) Ultimately, it is an acknowledgement, if not a pledge, that we must learn from this outbreak before we are faced with another. Yet, should we be persuaded that the Ebola outbreak will catalyze meaningful change?

‘It’s like déjà vu all over again.’ – Yogi Berra (attributed)

Unfortunately, this may be a more fitting sentiment. In the past 15 years alone, numerous infectious diseases have prompted similar ‘wake-up calls’ to improve global outbreak preparedness and response. These include outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS), H5N1, H7N9, and H1N1 influenza viruses, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-coV), and the emergence of pathogens with antimicrobial resistance, including multi-drug-resistant/extensively-drug-resistant tuberculosis.

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.