2014 outbreak of EVD in West Africa

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With the 2014 outbreak of EVD in West Africa, various ethical concerns have been raised in the medical literature and in the news about how care providers should treat the epidemic and its high danger of spreading domestically. Although the number of infected care providers in the country remains low, it raises important questions about how resources should be allocated in the aftermath of such a disaster, whether there should be different standards of care for patients with lethal and less contagious statuses, and whether care providers are required to put themselves in danger while caring for EVD given their professional statuses. The ethical code of conduct in the United States demands that access to quality emergency care be a right to all patients. Likewise, the American Medical Association code of ethics oblige medical practitioners to provide urgent care during disasters (Hinkle & Cheever, 2013).

However, the same code of ethics acknowledges that the physician workforce is a limited resource. As such, care providers are required to keep in mind that while providing medical services they should find a balance between the immediate benefits of the patients and their ability to care for other patients in future (Hinkle, & Cheever, 2013). Similarly, the American Nurses Association code of ethics states that nurses owe similar duties to patients and themselves, including the obligation of preserving safety and integrity. From these codes of conduct, RNs are required to offer high standard care to EVD patients but are not absolutely obliged to put themselves at risk. Torabi-Parizi, Davey, Suffredini, & Chertow (2015) noted that the provision of CPR to critically ill individuals is futile and puts HCWs at unacceptable risk while recommending care providers to practice safe and effective life-sustaining care for EVD patients. Although not explicitly indicated, the literature and other ethical guidelines suggest that RNs are not ethically obliged to offer CPR in high-risk situations.


Hinkle, J. L., & Cheever, K. H. (2013). Brunner & Suddarth's textbook of medical-surgical nursing. Philidephia, PA: Walterz Kluwer Health.

Torabi-Parizi, P., Davey, R., Suffredini, A., & Chertow, D. (2015). Ethical and practical considerations in providing critical care to patients with Ebola virus disease. Chest, 147(6), 1460-1466. Doi:10.1378/chest.15-0278

May 02, 2023
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