A recent article in the Huffington Post, looking at the current Ebola epidemic and the risk here in the United States, asked the interesting question of whether or not physicians have a duty to treat patients who present the symptoms of Ebola. While we would like to assume that physicians treat whoever walks into their clinic or hospital, this isn’t always the case.
Ebola, being the kind of disease it is, could conceivably create a situation where a physician has intractable concerns about exposing himself or herself to the virus. From the standpoint of professional ethics, the issue may be looked at from various angles, including the general ethical duty to treat those who are in need of medical care, as well as the degree of risk in treating the condition and the prospect of rendering successful medical treatment. Obviously, cases in which the risks of treating the patient are high and the prospects of success low, it is harder to find an ethical duty to treat.