Over the past week, the Ebola outbreak has become a massive problem for the world. This deadly disease has spread remarkably quickly, starting in Liberia and now appearing in the U.S.. In the past week, two cases have appeared in Dallas, Texas, with one of the victims having sadly passed away. As much as the nation is saddened by this passing, it does raise quite a few concerns in terms of containing the disease. The simplest and most effective strategy for containing the disease would be to cremate the corpse of the deceased victims. This would eradicate any remnants of the disease and stop the spread right there. However, this starts a difficult moral debate. In many cultures, the use of cremation to lay the deceased to rest is strictly prohibited. What do you do in a situation where a patient’s culture falls on this side of the moral debate? Do we, as a nation, decide that it is better to cremate the victim, or do we be culturally sensitive, and raise the risk of Ebola spreading? How far do we go to contain the spread of a deadly disease with no cure?

In Judaic culture, the body of the dead must be buried within a day of their passing. In the Islamic tradition, the dead need to be buried after having been bathed and having undergone a set of rituals. Cremation is  strictly forbidden. However, it is strict American federal policy to cremate the victims of Ebola. The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola on American soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, will be cremated. This allows handling of remains without protective gear and has the benefit of allowing remains to be released back to families searching for closure. If a victim does not undergo the crematory process, releasing the body to the family would essentially guarantee the spread of the disease.

Faith and all practices that go along with individual faiths are vitally important to the identity of a majority of the population, but it does feel slightly ridiculous that this issue is becoming a debate. I can understand why families and friends of victims would want to adhere strongly to the victim’s religious practice, but realistically, handing the body over to families is too large of a risk. Yes, it may seem harsh to say that religious beliefs or faith in general should not play a hand here, but it is certainly better to contain such a deadly disease, one for which there is no cure yet. There is such a simple solution to stopping the spread of the disease in the U.S., but it is being thrown out by so many because it goes against religious beliefs.

I do agree that some practices to contain Ebola are getting out of hand. This week, a dog of a Spanish victim was put down simply because of the risk that it had come in contact with the disease. This is not a fair practice, and not one that would stretch to humanity. Any suspected carriers of the disease should be placed into quarantine, as have Duncan’s family members, and should be monitored in case of Ebola manifestation. But in terms of what should be done after a victim has already passed, I am a strong proponent of the idea that the body should be cremated to avoid spreading the disease.

Lotfi is a member of

the class of 2016.



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