KIE Director Maggie Little and colleague Dr. Anne Lyerly will join a panel of experts to identify priorities for the global health and research communities regarding the Zika virus at the upcoming annual American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) conference. The event works to promote the exchange of ideas and foster multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, and inter-professional scholarship, research, teaching, policy development, professional development, and collegiality among people engaged in all of the endeavors related to clinical and academic bioethics and the health-related humanities.
PHASES team members will be joined by Dr. Carla Saenz of PAHO. Their specific panel is billed thus:
Zika infection has emerged as an international public health crisis. Pregnancy is a defining feature of the crisis, with the crux of concern stemming from the association between infection during pregnancy and congenital microcephaly and other fetal neurological compromises. Yet appreciation of the distinctive challenges, and critical needs, that pregnancy presents to the global health and research communities cannot be taken for granted. Concerns about the lack of access to contraception and abortion in several affected countries have been noted, but its granular implications for the ethics of research and clinical care have been poorly addressed. Given the difficulty of diagnosing microcephaly until late in gestation, a key question is how best to clinically support pregnant women facing decisions about abortion, legal or illegal, under uncertainty. As better diagnostics for the virus are tested, the ethics of disclosure under conditions of poor access to contraception will be critical. The historical reticence to use live vaccines in pregnancy raises crucial issues about priorities of investigating nonreplicable viruses for research dollars. And the world research community urgently needs concrete guidance on how to stage research on vaccines to pregnant women. This international panel, with representatives from both North and South America, will discuss these key challenges and identify priorities for the global health and research communities essential to an adequate and ethical response to the crisis.