Large-scale linkage of international clinical datasets could lead to unique insights into disease aetiology and facilitate treatment evaluation and drug development. Hereto, multi-stakeholder consortia are currently designing several disease-specific translational research platforms to enable international health data sharing. Despite the recent adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the procedures for how to govern responsible data sharing in such projects are not at all spelled out yet. In search of a first, basic outline of an ethical governance framework, we (...) set out to explore relevant ethical principles and norms. We performed a systematic review of literature and ethical guidelines for principles and norms pertaining to data sharing for international health research. We observed an abundance of principles and norms with considerable convergence at the aggregate level of four overarching themes: societal benefits and value; distribution of risks, benefits and burdens; respect for individuals and groups; and public trust and engagement. However, at the level of principles and norms we identified substantial variation in the phrasing and level of detail, the number and content of norms considered necessary to protect a principle, and the contextual approaches in which principles and norms are used. While providing some helpful leads for further work on a coherent governance framework for data sharing, the current collection of principles and norms prompts important questions about how to streamline terminology regarding de-identification and how to harmonise the identified principles and norms into a coherent governance framework that promotes data sharing while securing public trust. (shrink)
People who work and live in a certain moral practice usually possess a specific form of moral wisdom. If we manage to incorporate their moral intuitions in ethical reasoning, we can arrive at judgements and theories that grasp a moral experience that generally cannot be found outside the said practice. To achieve this goal, we need a legitimate way to balance moral intuitions, ethical principles and general theories. In the present contribution, we describe a version of the model of Reflective (...) Equilibrium, which we call the Normative-Empirical Reflective Equilibrium . RE provides a framework for ethical thinking that includes both moral experience and normative theory.After an outline of the model, we focus on the role of empirical research and illustrate how empirical data on moral intuitions can add to the comprehensiveness of the set of moral beliefs in NE-RE. Subsequently, we describe how coherence among the elements of an NE-RE can be understood and measured. Finally, we address an important question for any method of moral reasoning: what is the status of the outcome of the reasoning process? This is a matter of justification. We argue for a so-called good reasoning-justified outcome strategy in NE-RE. This strategy is built on a reasoning process in which the reason-giving force of each element is tested and weighed. The thinker has to work towards a coherent view in which only the elements with sufficient justificatory power are retained. If the thinker decides that the elements fit together into a coherent view, a reflective equilibrium is reached. NE-RE is an attempt to describe a model for moral reasoning that can profit from the moral wisdom present among experienced agents through the use of empirical research. (shrink)
The Dutch law states that a physician may perform euthanasia according to a written advance euthanasia directive when a patient is incompetent as long as all legal criteria of due care are met. This may also hold for patients with advanced dementia. We investigated the differing opinions of physicians and members of the general public on the acceptability of euthanasia in patients with advanced dementia.
BackgroundThe Netherlands is one of the few countries where euthanasia is legal under strict conditions. This study investigates whether Dutch newspaper articles use the term ‘euthanasia’ according to the legal definition and determines what arguments for and against euthanasia they contain.MethodsWe did an electronic search of seven Dutch national newspapers between January 2009 and May 2010 and conducted a content analysis.ResultsOf the 284 articles containing the term ‘euthanasia’, 24% referred to practices outside the scope of the law, mostly relating to (...) the forgoing of life-prolonging treatments and assistance in suicide by others than physicians. Of the articles with euthanasia as the main topic, 36% described euthanasia in the context of a terminally ill patient, 24% for older persons, 16% for persons with dementia, and 9% for persons with a psychiatric disorder. The most frequent arguments for euthanasia included the importance of self-determination and the fact that euthanasia contributes to a good death. The most frequent arguments opposing euthanasia were that suffering should instead be alleviated by better care, that providing euthanasia can be disturbing, and that society should protect the vulnerable.ConclusionsOf the newspaper articles, 24% uses the term ‘euthanasia’ for practices that are outside the scope of the euthanasia law. Typically, the more unusual cases are discussed. This might lead to misunderstandings between citizens and physicians. Despite the Dutch legalisation of euthanasia, the debate about its acceptability and boundaries is ongoing and both sides of the debate are clearly represented. (shrink)
BackgroundIn research ethics, the most basic question would always be, “which is an ethical issue, which is not?” Interestingly, depending on which ethics guideline we consult, we may have various answers to this question. Though we already have several international ethics guidelines for biomedical research involving human participants, ironically, we do not have a harmonized document which tells us what these various guidelines say and shows us the areas of consensus. In this manuscript, we attempted to do just that.MethodsWe extracted (...) the imperatives from five internationally-known ethics guidelines and took note where the imperatives came from. In doing so, we gathered data on how many guidelines support a specific imperative.ResultsWe found that there is no consensus on the majority of the imperatives and that in only 8.2 % of the imperatives were there at least moderate consensus. Of the 12 clusters, Informed Consent has the highest level of consensus and Research Collaboration and Regulatory Sanctions have the least.ConclusionThere was a lack of consensus in the majority of imperatives from the five internationally-known ethics guidelines. This may be partly explained by the differences among the guidelines in terms of their levels of specification as well as conceptual/ideological differences. (shrink)
Background In the EU, clinical assessors, rapporteurs and the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use are obliged to assess the ethical aspects of a clinical development program and include major ethical flaws in the marketing authorization deliberation processes. To this date, we know very little about the manner that these regulators put this obligation into action. In this paper, we intend to look into the manner and the extent that ethical issues discovered during inspection have reached the deliberation processes. (...) Methods To gather data, we used the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board database and first searched for the inspections, and their accompanying site inspection reports and integrated inspection reports, related to central marketing authorization applications of drugs submitted to the European Medicines Agency from 2011 to 2015. We then extracted inspection findings that were purely of ethical nature, i.e., those that did not affect the benefit/risk balance of the study. Only findings graded at least major by the inspectorate were included. Lastly, to identify how many of the ethically relevant findings reach the application deliberation processes, we extracted the relevant joint response assessment reports and reviewed the sections that discussed inspection findings. Results From 2011 to 2015, there were 390 processed applications, of which 65 had inspection reports and integrated inspection reports accessible via the database of the Dutch Medicines Evaluation Board. Of the 65, we found ERFs in 37. The majority of the ERFs were graded as major and half of the time it was informed-consent related. A third of these findings were related to research ethics committee processes and requirements. Of the 37 inspections with ERFs, 30 were endorsed in the integrated inspection reports as generally GCP compliant. Day 150 joint response assessment reports and Day 180 list of outstanding issues were reviewed for all 37 inspections, and none of the ERFs were carried over in any of the assessment reports or list of outstanding issues. Conclusion None of the ethically relevant findings, all of which were graded as major or critical in integrated inspection reports, were explicitly carried over to the joint assessment reports. This calls for more transparency in EMA application deliberations on how ERFs are considered, if at all, in the decision-making processes. (shrink)
BackgroundThe rise of Big Data-driven health research challenges the assumed contribution of medical research to the public good, raising questions about whether the status of such research as a common good should be taken for granted, and how public trust can be preserved. Scandals arising out of sharing data during medical research have pointed out that going beyond the requirements of law may be necessary for sustaining trust in data-intensive health research. We propose building upon the use of a social (...) licence for achieving such ethical governance.Main textWe performed a narrative review of the social licence as presented in the biomedical literature. We used a systematic search and selection process, followed by a critical conceptual analysis. The systematic search resulted in nine publications. Our conceptual analysis aims to clarify how societal permission can be granted to health research projects which rely upon the reuse and/or linkage of health data. These activities may be morally demanding. For these types of activities, a moral legitimation, beyond the limits of law, may need to be sought in order to preserve trust. Our analysis indicates that a social licence encourages us to recognise a broad range of stakeholder interests and perspectives in data-intensive health research. This is especially true for patients contributing data. Incorporating such a practice paves the way towards an ethical governance, based upon trust. Public engagement that involves patients from the start is called for to strengthen this social licence.ConclusionsThere are several merits to using the concept of social licence as a guideline for ethical governance. Firstly, it fits the novel scale of data-related risks; secondly, it focuses attention on trustworthiness; and finally, it offers co-creation as a way forward. Greater trust can be achieved in the governance of data-intensive health research by highlighting strategic dialogue with both patients contributing the data, and the public in general. This should ultimately contribute to a more ethical practice of governance. (shrink)