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Researchers from the University of Birmingham will be studying the ethical challenges faced by British military healthcare professionals who joined the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The researchers will be interviewing returning British military healthcare personnel. Military personal were deployed as part of the UK government’s response to international calls to help the worse affected areas of Africa to bring their epidemics under control. It has been several years since the UK medical military mobilised for a major humanitarian response. The ethical issues generated by humanitarian work are complex.

The research effort is being supported by the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, who are funding the project with the Economic and Social Research Council.

The research findings will be used to generate training materials, which will be made available in the next few months for use in military training - and beyond.

Professor Heather Draper, who is leading the project commented: “We are pleased to have the opportunity to support the training of those who are preparing to leave for Ebola affected areas. It is impossible not to have been deeply moved by the reports coming from these areas, nor by the bravery of those who volunteered to help. We are hopeful that our research findings, and the training materials they inform, will also be useful in other humanitarian aid contexts. The rate at which disasters occur across the world continues to increase and all agencies involved accept the need to ensure that volunteers are adequately trained and prepared before they set out to help.”

“Military healthcare professionals’ experiences of ethical challenges whilst on Ebola humanitarian deployment (Sierra Leone)” is funded by the ESRC (Ref ES/M011763/1), under its Urgency Grants Mechanism pilot, and the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine. Additional funding was supplied by the British Red Cross.

The project team is Heather Draper, Catherine Hale and Simon Jenkins, University of Birmingham and Maj Lizzy Bernthal, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine.