Emergency care research ethics in low- and middle-income countries

BMJ Global Health 4:e001260 (2019)
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Abstract

A large proportion of the total global burden of disease is caused by emergency medical conditions. Emergency care research is essential to improving emergency medicine but this research can raise some distinctive ethical challenges, especially with regard to (1) standard of care and risk–benefit assessment; (2) blurring of the roles of clinician and researcher; (3) enrolment of populations with intersecting vulnerabilities; (4) fair participant selection; (5) quality of consent; and (6) community engagement. Despite the importance of research to improve emergency care in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) and the widely acknowledged ethical challenges, very little has been written on the ethics of emergency care research in LMICs. This paper examines the ethical and regulatory challenges to conducting emergency care research with human participants in LMICs. We outline key challenges, present potential solutions or frameworks for addressing these challenges, and identify gaps. Despite the ethical and regulatory challenges, conducting high-quality, ethical emergency care research in LMICs is possible and it is essential for global health.

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Joseph Millum
University of St. Andrews

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