Blood, Pills, and Black Markets

October 3, 2014 4:38 PM

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Blood, Pills, and Black Markets

Recent reports illuminate a growing black market trade in blood from Ebola survivors. Those with the desire and resources are buying blood in hopes of curing current infections or stockpiling for future infections. In addition, derivatives of blood-based antibodies are the main ingredients in experimental serums used to treat American, Spanish, and Liberian medical officials. It is also important to note that blood serum from animals is harvested and engineered using different technologies to produce experimental serums. While research on Ebola serums is being expedited as much as possible to respond to the rising demand, no proven Ebola cure exists. In fact, while the two Americans and a couple of Liberian doctors who received the serum survived, another Spanish doctor and a Liberian doctor did not. Administered early and with a high level of medical intervention, serums such as ZMAPP may help lower the mortality rate for Ebola. However, data is insufficient at this stage. In the case of Richard Sacra, U.S.-based physician Kent Brantly donated his personal blood to help fight off the virus. These developments highlight a larger market of pharmaceuticals, treatments, and biological material. The commodification of blood and other bodily fluids is steadily rising, and it is important to consider the practices surrounding these growing trends.

Procedures and policy in progress raise a number of questions about the ethics surrounding blood donation and sale. Why is it illegal for a Liberian citizen, for example, to procure blood as a preventative measure from a neighbor who survived Ebola? Conversely, why is it legal for Kent Brantly to gi...

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