Research ethics committees: A regional approach

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 20 (2):161-179 (1999)
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Guidelines for Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) or research ethics committees exist at national and international levels. These guidelines are based on ethical principles and establish an internationally acceptable standard for the review and conduct of medical research. Having attained a multinational consensus about what these fundamental guidelines should be, IRBs are left to interpret the guidelines and devise their own means of implementing them. Individual and community values bear on the interpretation of the guidelines so different IRBs attain different levels of effectiveness. In the Caribbean and Pan American regions there are few IRBs. Obstacles to the establishment and function of IRBs are exacerbated in developing regions like these by differences in language, literacy, and local value systems; education, administrative expertise, facilities, and access to information are also limited. A regional IRB network might facilitate more uniform ethical review in developing countries, and simplify IRB procedures.



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