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As the death toll in the Ebola outbreak passed 1,000, the World Health Organization gave its blessing for the use of untested drugs against the virus. Among the recent deaths was that of Miguel Pajares, a 75-year-old Spanish priest, who had been working in Liberia when he was infected.

Pajares is the first known European to die since the Ebola crisis began and was thought to have been one of three recipients of an experimental serum, along with two infected Americans. 

The news came just hours after the World Health Organization issued a statement in which it gave the ethical thumbs-up to unproven vaccines.

In the particular circumstances of this outbreak, and provided certain conditions are met, the panel reached consensus that it is ethical to offer unproven interventions with as yet unknown efficacy and adverse effects, as potential treatment or prevention.”

As Shirley Li noted last week, the World Health Organization declared the ebola outbreak a "global health emergency."

While it's been reported that Pajares received the experimental drug, Spanish officials wouldn't officially disclose that he did, citing patient privacy.

Pajares' case raises a number of issues from whether patient privacy should remain sacrosanct during an outbreak of a virus with no known cure as well as  a debate about who should receive experimental serums.

The W.H.O. sought to tackle some of these issues in its statement calling for a criteria involving "transparency about all aspects of care, informed consent, freedom of choice, confidentiality, respect for the person, preservation of dignity and involvement of the community" as it relates to untested "interventions."  

In the short-term, the discourse may be moot. On Monday the manufacturers of ZMapp, the experimental ebola drug, announced that they had shipped the last of the medication to Africa.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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