Emergency research without consent under polish law

Science and Engineering Ethics 13 (3):337-350 (2007)
Abstract
Although Directive 2001/20/EC of the European Parliament and of Council of 4 April 2001 on the approximation of the laws regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the implementation of good clinical practice in the conduct of clinical trials on medicinal products for human use does not contain an exception for emergency situations, and requires the informed consent of a legal representative in all cases where research is conducted on legally competent individuals who are unable to give informed consent, in Poland, emergency research can be conducted without consent. Polish regulations on emergency research can hardly be treated as a result of intentional legislative policy. Our provisions arise from multiple and sophisticated interpretations of different regulations that govern medical experiments on human subjects and clinical trials. These interpretations can be summarized as follows: (1) There are two categories of medical experiments: therapeutic and non-therapeutic experiments. Emergency research without consent may be conducted in the category of therapeutic experiment only (therapeutic experiment consists of the introduction by the physician of new or only partially proven diagnostic, therapeutic or preventive methods in order to achieve direct benefit to the health of the patients, and it can be carried out when hitherto applied methods were ineffective or their effectiveness was insufficient). (2). Emergency research may be conducted without consent if there is a situation of great urgency in which the research subject’s life is in danger and there is no possibility of obtaining immediate consent from the research subject him or herself, or from his or her legal representative or guardianship court, and the research subject has not refused to give consent for the participation in an emergency therapeutic experiment. The legal representative or guardianship court shall be provided with all the relevant information concerning subject’s participation in an experiment as soon as possible. All projects of emergency research with intent to be done without the research subject’s consent must be approved by an independent bioethics committee. Because these five requirements seem to provide insufficient protection for a subject’s autonomy and rights it is necessary to add to them two other conditions: (1) the emergency research could not be conducted using other research participants capable of giving informed consent; and (2) informed consent for continued participation in the emergency research shall be obtained from either the participant him or herself or the legally authorized representative as soon as possible (requirement of obtaining deferred consent). A consolidated single Act that will govern all aspects of medical experiments on human subjects, including emergency research, should be prepared and enacted as soon as possible.
Keywords Emergency research  Polish law  Medical experiments  Informed consent  Waiver of consent
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