Monday, August 11, 2014

What's wrong with you WHO?

I'm sure you've heard about the Ebola epidemic going on in West Africa.WHO has recently declared it an international health emergency (quite unlike other diseases in the region that likely kill more people). Of course, once one has jumped on to the panic generating band wagon, one also needs to demonstrate that one is doing 'something'.WHO decided to convene a meeting of medical ethics folks to discuss the distribution of (non-existent in any meaningful quantities) experimental therapeutic agents and (non-existent in any meaningful quantities) experimental preventive vaccines. Turns out, most attendees of the meeting had no ethics background at all.

Given the urgency to hold the meeting (in the absence of any goods to be resource allocated there's zero urgency to organize this event) WHO seems to have decided to stab randomly at its ethics rolodex, because the list of delegates is quite remarkable. Most of them are not known to have any public health ethics competence. None of the folks attending the meeting have published on ethical issues involved in access to experimental drugs in case of catastrophic illness. A look in recent issues of academic journals might have helped WHO to pick folks familiar with these sorts of issues. Alas, the rolodex clearly had to do.Women are virtually absent. Delegates from the region most affected (actually only affected) are pretty much absent, too. However, there's a Canadian chap, a Japanese chap, and importantly, a bloke from Australia as well as a guy from Saudi Arabia - all places desperately waiting for the first Ebola case to pop up on a flight, so the local media hype can be sustained for awhile longer, and the list goes on.

What on earth were you thinking, WHO, if anything?

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