The use of charged-particle radiation therapy (CPRT) is an increasingly important development in the treatment of cancer. One of the most pressing controversies about the use of this technology is whether randomised controlled trials are required before this form of treatment can be considered to be the treatment of choice for a wide range of indications. Equipoise is the key ethical concept in determining which research studies are justified. However, there is a good deal of disagreement about how this concept (...) is best understood and applied in the specific case of CPRT. This report is a position statement on these controversies that arises out of a workshop held at Wolfson College, Oxford in August 2011. The workshop brought together international leaders in the relevant fields (radiation oncology, medical physics, radiobiology, research ethics and methodology), including proponents on both sides of the debate, in order to make significant progress on the ethical issues associated with CPRT research. This position statement provides an ethical platform for future research and should enable further work to be done in developing international coordinated programmes of research. (shrink)
In February 2010, the World Medical Association hosted an international symposium on the ethics of placebo controls in clinical trials (WMA 2010). Despite years of debate, ethicists, clinical trialists, and policy makers remain divided over the ethical acceptability of using placebos in research when a proven, effective treatment is available. The protracted nature of this problem is due, at least in part, to a perceived conflict between the opposing demands placed on clinical research by science and ethics. A good, scientifically (...) valid trial, it is argued, must be “assay sensitive,” and without using a placebo control, there can be no guarantee that it is. In this article, we revisit some of the claims made about .. (shrink)
This is the table of contents of and introduction to a textbook entitled Bioethics in Canada. It will be published by Oxford University Press in March of 2013. It is designed mainly for use in Canada. Of the 51 articles that it contains, 26 are written by Canadians. -/- For further information, see http://www.oupcanada.com/catalog/9780195440157.html and http://www.amazon.ca/Bioethics-Canada-Charles-Weijer/dp/0195440153/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=13 59542985&sr=1-1.
Background: Publication of ethically uncertain research occurs despite well-published guidelines set forth in documents such as the Declaration of Helsinki. Such guidelines exist to aide editorial staff in making decisions regarding ethical acceptability of manuscripts submitted for publication, yet examples of ethically suspect and uncertain publication exist. Our objective was to survey journal editors regarding practices and attitudes surrounding such dilemmas. Methods: The Editor-in-chief of each of the 103 English-language journals from the 2005 Abridged Index Medicus list publishing original research (...) were asked to complete a survey sent to them by email between September-December 2007. Results: A response rate of 33% (n = 34) was obtained from the survey. 18% (n = 6) of respondents had published ethically uncertain or suspect research within the last 10 years. 85% (n = 29) of respondents stated they would always reject ethically uncertain articles submitted for publication on ethical grounds alone. 12% (n = 4) of respondents stated they would approach each submission on a case-by-case basis. 3% (n = 1) stated they would be likely to publish such research, but only with accompanying editorial. Only 38% (n = 13) give reviewers explicit instruction to reject submissions on ethical grounds if found wanting. Conclusions: Editorial compliance with the Declaration of Helsinki in rejecting research that is conducted unethically was difficult to ascertain because of a poor response rate despite multiple attempts using different modalities. Of those who did respond, the majority do reject ethically suspect research but few explicitly advise reviewers to do so. In this study editors did not take advantage of the opportunity to describe their support for the rejection of the publication of unethical research. (shrink)
Background: Concern has been growing in the academic literature and popular media about the licensing, introduction and adoption of surgical devices before full effectiveness and safety evidence is available to inform clinical practice. Our research will seek empirical survey evidence about the roles, responsibilities, and information and policy needs of the key stakeholders in the introduction into clinical practice of new surgical devices for pelvic floor surgery, in terms of the underlying ethical principals involved in the economic decision-making process, using (...) the example of pelvic floor procedures.Methods/DesignOur study involves three linked case studies using, as examples, selected pelvic floor surgery devices representing Health Canada device safety risk classes: low, medium and high risk. Data collection will focus on stakeholder roles and responsibilities, information and policy needs, and perceptions of those of other key stakeholders, in seeking and using evidence about new surgical devices when licensing and adopting them into practice. For each class of device, interviews will be used to seek the opinions of stakeholders. The following stakeholders and ethical and economic principles provide the theoretical framework for the study:Stakeholders - federal regulatory body, device manufacturers, clinicians, patients, health care institutions, provincial health departments, and professional societies. Clinical settings in two centres (in different provinces) will be included.Ethics - beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, justice.Economics - scarcity of resources, choices, opportunity costs.For each class of device, responses will be analysed to compare and contrast between stakeholders. Applied ethics and economic theory, analysis and critical interpretation will be used to further illuminate the case study material.DiscussionThe significance of our research in this new area of ethics will lie in providing recommendations for regulatory bodies, device manufacturers, clinicians, health care institutions, policy makers and professional societies, to ensure surgical patients receive sufficient information before providing consent for pelvic floor surgery. In addition, we shall provide a wealth of information for future study in other areas of surgery and clinical management, and provide suggestions for changes to health policy. (shrink)
This introductory chapter begins with a brief explanation of the impetus behind the book as well as its objectives. It then discusses the history of consent and the challenges for informed consent. An overview of the subsequent chapters is presented.
PURPOSE: There is an increasing demand for researchers to provide research results to participants. Our aim was to define an appropriate process for this, based on needs and attitudes of participants. METHODS: A multicenter survey in five sites in the United States and Canada was offered to parents of children with cancer and adolescents with cancer. Respondents indicated their preferred mode of communication of research results with respect to implications; timing, provider, and content of the results; reasons for and against (...) providing results; and barriers to providing results. RESULTS: Four hundred nine parents (including 19 of deceased children) and 86 adolescents responded. Most parents (n = 385; 94.2%) felt that they had a strong right to research results. For positive results, most wanted a letter or e-mail summary (n = 238; 58.2%) or a phone call followed by a letter (n = 100; 24.4%). If the results were negative, phone call (n = 136; 33.3%) or personal visits (n = 150; 36.7%) were preferred. Parents wanted the summary to include long-term sequelae and suggestions for participants (n = 341; 83.4%), effect on future treatments (n = 341; 83.4%), and subsequent research steps (n = 284; 69.5%). Understanding the researcher was a main concern about receiving results (n = 145; 35.5%). Parents felt that results provide information to support quality of life (n = 315; 77%) and raise public awareness of research (n = 282; 68.9%). Adolescents identified similar preferences. CONCLUSION: Parents of children with cancer and adolescents with cancer feel strongly that they have a right to be offered research results and have specific preferences of how and what information should be communicated. (shrink)
This chapter attempts to derive, define, and specify norms governing the relationship between physician-researcher and patient-subject, and to explore their interconnection. It argues that rooting the relationship between physician-researcher and patient-subject in a normative theory of trust is promising. It enables the derivation, definition, and specification of norms governing the relationship and appreciation of their interconnection.
Background: Low rates of participation of adolescents and young adults (AYAs) in clinical oncology trials may contribute to poorer outcomes. Factors that influence the decision of AYAs to participate in health research and whether these factors are different from those that affect the participation of parents of children with cancer. Methods: This is a secondary analysis of data from validated questionnaires provided to adolescents (>12 years old) diagnosed with cancer and parents of children with cancer at 3 sites in Canada (...) (Halifax, Vancouver, and Montreal) and 2 in the United States (Atlanta, GA, and Memphis, TN). Respondents reported their own research participation and cited factors that would influence their own decision to participate in, or to provide parental authorization for their child to participate in health research. Results: Completed questionnaire rates for AYAs and parents were 86 (46.5%) of 185 and 409 (65.2%) of 627, respectively. AYAs (n = 86 [67%]) and parents (n = 409 [85%]) cited that they would participate in research because it would help others. AYAs perceived pressure by their family and friends (16%) and their physician (19%). Having too much to think about at the time of accrual was an impediment to both groups (36% AYAs and 47% parents). The main deterrent for AYAs was that research would take up too much time (45%). Nonwhite parents (7 of 56 [12.5%]) were more apt to decline than white parents (12 of 32 [3.7%]; P < .01). Conclusions: AYAs identified time commitment and having too much to think about as significant impediments to research participation. Addressing these barriers by minimizing time requirements and further supporting decision-making may improve informed consent and impact on enrollment in trials. (shrink)
OBJECTIVES: To compare 2005 and 1995 ethics guidelines from journal editors to authors regarding requirements for institutional review board (IRB) approval and conflict-of-interest (COI) disclosure. DESIGN: A descriptive study of the ethics guidelines published in 103 English-language biomedical journals listed in the Abridged Index Medicus in 1995 and 2005. Each journal was reviewed by the principal author and one of four independent reviewers. RESULTS: During the period, the proportion of journals requiring IRB approval increased from 42% (95% CI 32.2% to (...) 51.2%, p<0.001) to 76% (95% CI 66.4% to 83.1%, p<0.001). In 2005, an additional 9% referred to the Declaration of Helsinki or the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors' Uniform requirements for ethical guidelines; 15% (95% CI 8.5% to 22.5%, p<0.01) provided ambiguous or no requirements. The proportion of journals requiring COI disclosure increased from 75% (95% CI 66.6% to 83.3%, p<0.05) to 94% (95% CI 89.4% to 98.6%, p<0.05); 41% had comprehensive requirements, while some addressed only funding source (6%), were vague (10%) or both (14%). Criteria for authorship rose from 40% (95% CI 30.5% to 49.5%, p<0.05) to 72% (95% CI 63.3% to 80.7%, p<0.05). Journals with higher impact factors were more likely to require IRB approval (p<0.01). Journals in anaesthesia and radiology all required IRB approval; requirements in other disciplines varied. CONCLUSIONS: Instructions to authors regarding ethical standards have improved. Some remain incomplete, especially regarding the scope of disclosure of COI. The ethical guidelines presented to authors need further clarification and standardisation. (shrink)
Wittgenstein, in his famous critique of philosophy, noted that the influence of an idea can be such that it alters the way that we see the world. “It is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at,” he said. “It never occurs to us to take them off.” This view of the power of an idea suggests that the interpretation of an event, and what response this event calls for, can depend (...) upon the view one has of the world. A person who is naive about medical facts may, for example, interpret chest pain upon exertion as a sign that he is “overdoing it”; were he more medically knowledgeable, the same symptom might be interpreted as a possible indicator of coronary artery disease. The naive interpretation calls for rest; the informed interpretation calls for medical attention as well. (shrink)
Emergency medicine research requires the enrollment of subjects with varying decision-making capacities, including capable adults, adults incapacitated by illness or injury, and children. These different categories of subjects are protected by multiple federal regulations. These include the federal Common Rule, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regulations for pediatric research, and the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Final Rule for the Exception from the Requirements of Informed Consent in Emergency Situations. Investigators should be familiar with the relevant federal (...) research regulations to optimally protect vulnerable research subjects, and to facilitate the institutional review board (IRB) review process. IRB members face particular challenges in reviewing emergency research. No regulations exist for research enrolling incapacitated subjects using proxy consent. The wording of the Final Rule may not optimally protect vulnerable subjects. It is also difficult to apply conflicting regulations to a single study that enrolls subjects with differing decision-making capacities. This article is intended as a guide for emergency researchers and IRB members who review emergency research. It reviews the elements of Federal Regulations that apply to consent, subject selection, privacy protection, and the analysis of risks and benefits in all emergency research. It explores the challenges for IRB review listed above, and offers potential solutions to these problems. (shrink)
Surgical devices are often marketed before there is good evidence of their safety and effectiveness. Our paper discusses the ethical issues associated with the early marketing and use of new surgical devices from the perspectives of the six groups most concerned. Health Canada, which is responsible for licensing new surgical devices, should amend their requirements to include rigorous clinical trials that provide data on effectiveness and safety for each new product before it is marketed. Industry should comply with all Health (...) Canada requirements to obtain licenses for new products. Until Health Canada requires effectiveness and safety data, industry should cooperate with physicians in appropriate studies before releasing new products and should make balanced presentations of all the available evidence. Surgeons should, before using a new surgical device, assess the evidence on its effectiveness and safety and ensure they are properly trained and competent in using the device. Surgeons should provide their patients with an evaluation of the available evidence and inform them about possible complications and the surgeon's level of experience with the new device. Patients, who should be given an honest evaluation of the available evidence, possible complications, and the surgeon's experience, should be encouraged to evaluate the evidence and information to their own satisfaction to ensure that fully informed consent is given. Health institutions, responsible for regulating practice within their walls, should review new devices for safety, effectiveness, and economic impacts, before allowing their use. They should also limit the use of new surgical devices to surgeons trained and competent in the new technology. Professional societies should provide guidance on the early adoption of new surgical devices and technologies. We urge all those involved in the development, licensing, and use of new surgical devices to aim for higher ethical standards to protect the health and safety of patients requiring surgery. The lowest acceptable ethical standard would require device manufacturers to provide surgeons with accurate and timely information on the efficacy and safety of their products, allowing surgeons and patients to evaluate the evidence (and the significance of information not yet available) before surgery. (shrink)
PURPOSE: The offer to return research results to participants is increasingly recognized as an ethical obligation, although few researchers routinely return results. We examined the needs and attitudes of parents of children with cancer and of adolescents with cancer to the return of research results. METHODS: Seven experts in research ethics scored content validity on parent and adolescent questionnaires previously developed through focus group and phone interviews. The questionnaires were revised and provided to 30 parents and 10 adolescents in a (...) tertiary care oncology setting. RESULTS: The content validity index for individual questions and the overall questionnaires scored as 0.86 for both questionnaires. All 30 parents and 10 adolescents who agreed to participate returned questionnaires. The majority (>95%) indicated that they had a strong or very strong right to receive results. Letter or e-mail was a satisfactory means to return results described as good or neutral (66% parents, 100% adolescents) but more participants wished face-to-face disclosure of results with negative implications (50% parents, 60% adolescents). Very few wanted results disseminated through a Web site. The majority acknowledged the need for peer-review before disclosure (60% of adolescents and parents) but did not want "to be the last to know." CONCLUSIONS: Our data suggest that pediatric oncology patients and parents of children with cancer strongly feel that they have a right to research results, and that they wish to receive these in a timely manner. (shrink)
Franklin G. Miller and colleagues have stimulated renewed interest in research ethics through their work criticizing clinical equipoise. Over three years and some twenty articles, they have also worked to articulate a positive alternative view on norms governing the conduct of clinical research. Shared presuppositions underlie the positive and critical dimensions of Miller and colleagues' work. However, recognizing that constructive contributions to the field ought to enjoy priority, we presently scrutinize the constructive dimension of their work. We argue that it (...) is wanting in several respects. (shrink)
: The authors respond to objections Fred Gifford has raised against their paper "Rehabilitating Equipoise." They situate this exchange in the wider context of recent debate over equipoise, highlighting substantial points of agreement between themselves and Gifford. The authors offer a brief restatement of "Rehabilitating Equipoise" in which they amplify some of its core arguments. They then assess Gifford's objections. Finding each to be unfounded, they argue that there is no justification for "pulling the plug" on clinical equipoise.
The practice of surgical trainees operating in developing countries is gaining interest in the medical community. Although there has been little analysis about the ethical impact of these electives, there has been some concerns raised over the possible exploitation of trainees and their patients. An ethical review of this practice shows that care needs to be taken to prevent harm. Inexperienced surgeons learning surgical skills in developing countries engender greater risk of violating basic ethical principles. Advanced surgical trainees who have (...) already achieved surgical competence are best qualified to satisfy these ethical issues. All training programs need to develop a structured ethical review for international electives to protect their trainees and their patients from harm. (shrink)
Earlier in the pages of this journal (p 481), Wendler and Miller offered the "net risks test" as an alternative approach to the ethical analysis of benefits and harms in research. They have been vocal critics of the dominant view of benefit-harm analysis in research ethics, which encompasses core concepts of duty of care, clinical equipoise and component analysis. They had been challenged to come up with a viable alternative to component analysis which meets five criteria. The alternative must (1) (...) protect research subjects; (2) allow clinical research to proceed; (3) explain how physicians may offer trial enrolment to their patients; (4) address the challenges posed by research containing a mixture of interventions and (5) define ethical standards according to which the risks and potential benefits of research may be consistently evaluated. This response argues that the net risks test meets none of these criteria and concludes that it is not a viable alternative to component analysis. (shrink)
Heated debate surrounds the question whether the relationship between physician-researcher and patient-subject is governed by a duty of care. Miller and Weijer argue that fiduciary law provides a strong legal foundation for this duty, and for articulating the terms of the relationship between physician-researcher and patient-subject.
When may a physician enroll a patient in clinical research? An adequate answer to this question requires clarification of trust-based obligations of the state and the physician-researcher respectively to the patient-subject. The state relies on the voluntarism of patient-subjects to advance the public interest in science. Accordingly, it is obligated to protect the agent-neutral interests of patient-subjects through promulgating standards that secure these interests. Component analysis is the only comprehensive and systematic specification of regulatory standards for benefit-harm evaluation by research (...) ethics committees (RECs). Clinical equipoise, a standard in component analysis, ensures the treatment arms of a randomised control trial are consistent with competent medical care. It thus serves to protect agent-neutral welfare interests of the patient-subject. But REC review occurs prior to enrolment, highlighting the independent responsibility of the physician-researcher to protect the agent-relative welfare interests of the patient-subject. In a novel interpretation of the duty of care, we argue for a “clinical judgment principle” which requires the physician-researcher to exercise judgment in the interests of the patient-subject taking into account evidence on treatments and the patient-subject‘s circumstances. (shrink)
Issues: We present key aspects of our paper, commissioned by UNAIDS in 2005, entitled, “Revisiting the ethics of HIV prevention research in developing countries.” In 2004 and 2005 we witnessed the closure or suspension of three international clinical trials testing tenofovir in the prevention of HIV infection in high risk groups due to the failure to provide free treatment to those who seroconvert during the conduct of the study. We examine critically moral claims for the provision of treatment to those (...) who seroconvert in HIV prevention trials and ask whether it is a matter of moral obligation or moral negotiation?Description: Using the tools of philosophical and regulatory analysis we examine the moral foundations of research ethics, international regulation, and the contemporary literature in search of valid arguments in support of a moral obligation to treat. Arguments supporting the obligation to provide such treatment are found in a wide variety of documents. These claims are variously rooted in the demand to compensate for research-related injury, maximization of research benefit, justice as reciprocity, and justice as equality.Lessons learned: Our analysis reveals that there is as of yet no robust moral argument supporting a moral obligation to provide treatment to participants in HIV prevention trials who seroconvert. We argue that moral negotiation offers distinct advantages over moral obligation. Moral negotiation finds support in the principle of respect for communities that holds researchers responsible to respect communal values, protect and empower social institutions and abide by the decisions of accepted communal authorities.Recommendations: Moral negotiation, rather than moral obligation, reduces the chance of polarization of positions by inviting trial participants, sponsors, researchers and all other involved parties to the table for discussion. Moral negotiation favors middle ground solutions that fit the specific health needs and priorities of the community in question. (shrink)
Must treatment be provided to subjects who acquire HIV during the course of a prevention study? An analysis of ethical foundation, regulation, and recent argumentation provides no basis for the obligation. We outline an alternative approach to the problem based on moral negotiation.
BACKGROUND: Researchers have a moral responsibility to offer to return research results to participants, but the needs and attitudes of parents and adolescents with cancer in paediatric oncology regarding the issue are relatively unknown.OBJECTIVES: To explore the needs of potential research participants or their guardians with respect to the offer of a return of research results. METHODS: A questionnaire was used in a focus group and in telephone interviews with eight adolescents and 12 parents of children with cancer. The participants (...) were asked to respond to the questions and to comment on the inclusiveness of the questionnaire.RESULTS: The majority of participants (18 of 20) wished to receive research results. Two somewhat unexpected findings are described. First, all participants in the present study felt that it was the primary responsibility of the participant to retain contact with the researchers for the purpose of obtaining research results. Second, few participants (n=2) indicated that the Internet would be a satisfactory way of transmitting these results. One-half of the participants wished to have face-to-face communication of results.CONCLUSIONS: These results provide preliminary guidance for the return of research results to participants and validate the use of the questionnaire in a larger study of this issue. (shrink)
The notions of individual and collective ethics were first explicitly defined in the biostatistical literature in 1971 to motivate a mathematical solution to a posed ethical dilemma. This paper reviews key antecedents to these concepts and traces explicit references to them over time, primarily in the biostatistical literature. Following a historical exposition of these texts, a critical thematic analysis shows the following: the normative force of these concepts has not been adequately argued. Individual and collective ethics do not solve the (...) problem of how to use accumulating data to inform ethical action. The notions of the "individual" and the "collective" are too vague to prompt clear moral imperatives, especially in difficult cases. These concepts have not been successfully linked to a standard ethical framework. Finally, the paper concludes with the observation that a systematic, comprehensive ethical framework must be identified to fulfill the intuitions behind individual and collective ethics. (shrink)
OBJECTIVE: To apply component analysis, a structured approach to the ethical analysis of risks and potential benefits in research, to published emergency research using a waiver of/exception from informed consent. The hypothesis was that component analysis could be used with a high degree of interrater reliability, and that the vast majority of emergency research would comply with a minimal-risk threshold. METHODS: A Medline search and manual search were done to identify studies using a waiver of/exception from informed consent published between (...) July 1996 and December 2000. A review panel of physicians and bioethicists independently classified nontherapeutic procedures in each study as minimal risk, probably minimal risk, or probably more than minimal risk. RESULTS: Seventy studies using a waiver of/exception from informed consent were identified. A majority of reviewers classified nontherapeutic procedures in 62 studies (88.6%) as minimal risk. Reviewers classified nontherapeutic procedures in six studies (8.6%) as minimal risk or probably minimal risk. In two studies (2.9%), nontherapeutic procedures were classified as probably more than minimal risk. The intraclass correlation coefficient was 0.89 (95% CI = 0.85 to 0.93), indicating very high interrater reliability. CONCLUSIONS: Component analysis can be used with high reliability to review emergency research and may improve the consistency of institutional review board review of emergency research. The vast majority of published emergency research performed using a waiver of/exception from consent complies with a properly-applied minimal-risk threshold. A minimal-risk threshold for nontherapeutic procedures protects subjects better than current U.S. regulations while permitting important emergency research to continue. (shrink)