Today I came across this article about the possibility of an Ebola nurse having hidden the high temperature of an Ebola survivor. I’m not planning on commenting on the accuracy of these claims, because I’m clearly in no position to make a judgement on the case. The article itself doesn’t specify whether the claims are true, but just presents the evidence collected by both sides. As I read the first few lines of the article, the word ‘integrity’ came to my head, and that’s just what I want to talk about here as this situation seems to provide a strong example to demonstrate the significance of this quality.
Ebola is a serious viral disease which originated in Africa. The disease has caused more than 11,000, which demonstrates the severity of contracting it. One of the remains why there was such a huge outbreak of Ebola is perhaps due to the fact that it’s spread relatively easily. Simply touching a person who is infected with the disease or has recently died from it would be enough to pass the virus on to you. The virus is able to also survive for a few days outside the body meaning that it could potentially be picked up by somebody else during this time. This is why medical professions who deal with cases of Ebola have to be particularly careful to make sure they don’t act as a host allowing the virus to spread even further. I remember some of the previous articles I’ve read regarding a nurse who had been diagnosed with Ebola in the UK, after she spent time working in Africa. The was kept completely isolated from other patients and any medical professionals who came to treat her had to wear a full protective suit. I remember first wondering whether such extreme methods would be necessary and also that it must be difficult for the patient to remain in such extreme isolation. However, such precautions are absolutely vital to prevent an outbreak of Ebola in the UK, and to limit the spread of the virus.
One of the symptoms of Ebola is a high fever. So with regards to the article, if the ‘Ebola survivor’ did have a high temperature, this could indicate that the virus hadn’t yet left her body so it would be safer for her to still remain in isolation. If a nurse had infact intentionally recorded a lower temperature than the one the thermometer displayed this would have have completely undermined the qualities of honesty and integrity which are required by all health professionals. When I think of honesty and integrity, it’s a requirement of a person to be completely open in their deals and not to purposefully manipulate or withdraw information. I also believe that it also involves an aspect of knowing your limitations and being able to take appropriate honest actions in situations where you are unsure. As an overriding theme, honesty is vital to a career in Medicine. You cannot possibly make a good and thorough doctor without being honest to your patients, honest to your colleagues and also honest to yourself. Being honest to yourself would involve situations such as realising the extent of competency, and simple things such as not going in to work when you have an illness that you could potentially pass on to your patients.
From the case above, the article mentions the nurse thought it was warm in the plan so she therefore lowered the recorded temperature to compensate for the high temperature surroundings which could caused her temperature to be higher than normal. If this did happen, although, it was probably intended well, in order to record a temperature more representative of the surroundings, I still believe this act still constitutes of a breach of integrity. If the temperature displayed on the screen of the thermometer was not 37.2 degrees celsius, this should not have been recorded irregardless of the circumstances. Instead, the nurse should have recorded the temperature that was displayed and perhaps written a note mentioning that the temperature of the environment was higher than usual. This would have been an honest approach, and not misleading in any way.
Something else that this article made me reflect on further was the thought that this simple, mere act of changing the temperature perhaps did not seem a big deal at the time, however, it was actually so as this patient was later re-diagnosed with Ebola. This is a frightening thought as she did indeed have the virus within her, but an inaccurate recording led her to leave isolation and mix with other healthy people, giving the virus the potential to spread. This doesn’t just harm the patient who was not being treated during this time, but will cause a severe detriment to public health. So a small act of not being entirely honest could lead to a outbreak of Ebola.
The moral of the story: always be as honest as humanely possible, act with integrity.