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Military healthcare professionals' experiences of ethical challenges whilst on Ebola humanitarian deployment (Sierra Leone)

Investigators: Investigators: Heather Draper (PI), Catherine Hale (CI), Lizzy Bernthal (CI), Simon Jenkins (Research Fellow)
Funder: ESRC (Ref ES/M011763/1), under its Urgency Grants Mechanism pilot, and the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine.

Copyright Andy JohnstonThis project identified and explored the ethical challenges that faced UK Military Medical personnel deployed to the 2014/2015 Ebola epidemic. Summary of key findings and outputs can be found here.

We also produced training materials on ethics for future use by military and civilian responders to humanitarian disasters.

Ebola Virus Disease is a serious, highly infectious and life-threatening disease. The epidemic in West Africa quickly overwhelmed the capacity of local services in affected countries. Thousands of people became seriously ill, and multiple died. In the early months of the outbreak, healthcare workers were disproportionately affected and many died. Their loss made dealing with the crisis even more difficult for affected communities.

In August 2014, the World Health Organisation declared the epidemic to be an international public health emergency. It was felt that if the situation was not brought quickly under control, a pandemic (affecting countries beyond Africa) would result.

Part of the UK Government response was deploying military personnel to run a treatment unit in Sierra Leone (one of the most seriously affected countries). Military staff were also deployed in other important roles, such as helping with training, coordination and engineering. The military response was named Op GRITROCK.

Our project centred on those military personnel who were deployed to the Kerry Town Ebola treatment unit. 20 personnel were interviewed about their perceptions of the ethical challenges faced before, during and after deployment.