Radical measures to prevent the spread of Ebola in hospitals

Xavier Symons
25 October 2014
Reproduced with Permission

At least three US hospital systems are currently considering whether they withhold certain treatments from Ebola patients, in a bid to protect their doctors and nurses.

The move comes after two nurses from Dallas were infected with the virus whilst treating a patient who had recently returned from West Africa.

Executives at University of Chicago Medicine are considering whether procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting a ventilator on a patient should be avoided due to the potential of exposure to the virus.

"We have very little experience with [those procedures] except for Mr Thomas Duncan , who didn't do well," said Dr Emily Landon, a bioethicist and epidemiologist from the hospital.

Pennsylvania's Geisinger Health System is also considering whether certain 'risky' procedures could be avoided, as are managers from Intermountain Healthcare, which runs facilities in Utah.

Geisinger is paying close attention to directives from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and has set up an Ebola Response Team to deal with the new viral threat.

Dr G. Kevin Donovan, director of the bioethics centre at Georgetown University, told hospitals to proceed with caution: "To have a blanket refusal to offer these procedures is not ethically acceptable".

Dr Nancy Kass, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said healthcare workers should not hesitate to perform a medically necessary procedure so long as they have robust personal protective gear.