Pandemic Management and Developing World Bioethics: Bird Flu in West Bengal
Developing World Bioethics 2009 December; 9(3):161-166
This paper examines the case of a recent H5N1virus (avian influenza) outbreak in West Bengal, an eastern state of India, and argues that poorly executed pandemic management may be viewed as a moral lapse. It further argues that pandemic management initiatives are intimately related to the concept of health as a social 'good' and to the moral responsibility of protection from foreseeable social harm from an infectious disease. The initiatives, therefore, have to be guided by special moral obligations towards biorisk reduction, obligations which remain unfulfilled when a public body entrusted with the responsibility fails to manage satisfactorily the prevention and control of the infection. The overall conclusion is that pandemic management has a moral dimension. The gravity of the threat that fatal infectious diseases pose for public health creates special moral obligations for public bodies in pandemic situations. However, the paper views the West Bengal case as a learning opportunity, and considers the lapses cited as challenges that better, more effectively conducted pandemic management can prepare for. It is hoped that this paper will provoke constructive bioethical deliberations, particularly pertinent to the developing world, on how to ensure that the obligations towards health are fulfilled ethically and more effectively.
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