The controversy surrounding the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an antimalarial drug, for COVID-19 has raised numerous ethical and policy problems. Since the suggestion that HCQ has potential for COVID-19, there have been varying responses from clinicians and healthcare institutions, ranging from adoption of protocols using HCQ for routine care to the conduct of randomised controlled trials to an effective system-wide prohibition on its use for COVID-19. In this article, we argue that the concept of 'disease public profile' has become a prominent, if not the sole, determinant in decision-making across various healthcare responses to the pandemic. In the case of COVID-19, the disease's public profile is based on clinical and non-clinical factors that include contagiousness, clinical presentation and media coverage. In particular, we briefly examine the dangers of a heightened public profile in magnifying the inequality of diseases and undermining three key ethical concepts, namely (1) evidence-based practice, (2) sustainable allocation and (3) meaningful consent.
- clinical ethics
- distributive justice
- history of health ethics/bioethics
- informed consent
- public health ethics