Via The Guardian: US quarantine for Ebola health workers 'morally wrong'. Excerpt:
Quarantine restrictions imposed in the US on healthcare workers returning from saving lives in the Ebola epidemic in west Africa were morally wrong and counterproductive, according to Barack Obama’s bioethics commission.
A comprehensive report on the US response to Ebola at home and in Africa found there was no good scientific evidence for the mandatory 21-day quarantine imposed in states like Maine, which tried to confine nurse Kaci Hickox to her home on her return from Sierra Leone. Hickox defied the order and went for a bike ride, later challenging the restrictions in court and winning permission to move freely while regularly monitoring her temperature.
The presidential commission for the study of bioethical issues said the US must be better prepared for a future emergency, arguing that the federal government has a moral and prudential responsibility to get involved in the global response.
“The Ebola epidemic in western Africa overwhelmed fragile health systems, killed thousands of people, and highlighted major inadequacies in our ability to respond to global public health emergencies,” said Amy Gutmann, the commission chair.
“It demonstrated the dire need to prepare before the next epidemic. A failure to prepare and a failure to follow good science – for example, by not developing vaccines and not supporting health care providers – will lead to needless deaths.”
The public health response must be underpinned by an ethical framework worked out in advance, the commission said. “We need to be prepared, for example, to communicate early and often during an Ebola epidemic – drawing upon the best scientific evidence – why not to quarantine asymptomatic individuals. Needlessly restricting the freedom of expert and caring health care workers is both morally wrong and counterproductive; it will do more to lose than to save lives.”
The report criticised some state quarantine policies as “ineffective and overly restrictive”. Both in Africa and the US, individual and community liberty should be restricted “only so much as is necessary to protect public health”.
The Ebola crisis has had a profound impact, said the report. “This global public health emergency – and our societal response to the perceived threat and reality of limited cases of Ebola arriving on our shores – has forced us as a society to revisit fundamental questions about when health crises in other countries become our shared moral concern, and has illuminated shortcomings in our public health and ethical preparedness infrastructure.”