In this paper, we examine the case of psychedelic medicine for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (AD/ADRD). These “mind-altering” drugs are not currently offered as treatments to persons with AD/ADRD, though there is growing interest in their use to treat underlying causes and associated psychiatric symptoms. We present a research agenda for examining the ethics of psychedelic medicine and research involving persons living with AD/ADRD, and offer preliminary analyses of six ethical issues: the impact of psychedelics on autonomy and consent; (...) the impact of “ego dissolution” on persons experiencing a pathology of self; how psychedelics might impact caregiving; the potential exploitation of patient desperation; institutional review boards’ orientation to psychedelic research; and methods to mitigate inequity. These ethical issues are magnified for AD/ADRD but bear broader relevance to psychedelic medicine and research in other clinical populations. (shrink)
While experience often affords important knowledge and insight that is difficult to garner through observation or testimony alone, it also has the potential to generate conflicts of interest and unrepresentative perspectives. We call this tension the paradox of experience. In this paper, we first outline appeals to experience made in debates about access to unproven medical products and disability bioethics, as examples of how experience claims arise in bioethics and some of the challenges raised by these claims. We then motivate (...) the idea that experience can be an asset by appealing to themes in feminist and moral epistemology, distinguishing between epistemic and justice-based appeals. Next, we explain the concern that experience may be a liability by appealing to empirical work on cognitive biases and theoretical work about the problem of partial representation. We conclude with preliminary recommendations for addressing the paradox and offer several questions for future discussion. (shrink)
Institutional Review Boards have substantial power and authority over research with human subjects, and in turn, their decisions have substantial implications for those subjects, investigators, and the public at large. However, there is little transparency about IRB processes and decisions. This article provides the first comprehensive taxonomy of what transparency means for IRBs — answering the questions “to whom, about what, and by what mechanisms?” It also explains why the status quo of nontransparency is problematic, and presents arguments for greater (...) transparency from the perspective of a variety of stakeholders. IRB transparency will make boards more accountable, improve the quality of their decision-making, facilitate consistency in board decisions, permit empirical study of IRBs, promote research efficiency, and advance trust in the research enterprise, among a variety of other benefits. Regulators should promote IRB transparency, IRBs themselves should commit to sharing as much information as they can within the confines of confidentiality requirements, and investigators can endeavor to take matters into their own hands by sharing IRB correspondence and IRB-approved protocols and consent materials. (shrink)
It is not uncommon for multiple clinical trials at the same institution to recruit concurrently from the same patient population. When the relevant pool of patients is limited, as it often is, trials essentially compete for participants. There is evidence that such a competition is a predictor of low study accrual, with increased competition tied to increased recruitment shortfalls. But there is no consensus on what steps, if any, institutions should take to approach this issue. In this article, we argue (...) that an institutional policy that prioritises some trials for recruitment ahead of others is ethically permissible and indeed prima facie preferable to alternative means of addressing recruitment competition. We motivate this view by appeal to the ethical importance of minimising the number of studies that begin but do not complete, thereby exposing their participants to unnecessary risks and burdens in the process. We then argue that a policy of prioritisation can be fair to relevant stakeholders, including participants, investigators and funders. Finally, by way of encouraging and helping to frame future debate, we propose some questions that would need to be addressed when identifying substantive ethical criteria for prioritising between studies. (shrink)
Recognizing that offers of payment to research participants can serve various purposes—reimbursement, compensation, and incentive—helps uncover differences between participants that can justify differential payment of participants within the same study. Participants with different study-related expenses will need different amounts of reimbursement to be restored to their pre-participation financial baseline. Differential compensation can be acceptable when some research participants commit more time or assume greater burdens than others, or if inter-site differences affect the value of compensation. Finally, it may be permissible (...) to offer differential incentive payments if necessary to advance a study’s goals. We encourage investigators and Institutional Review Boards to think not only about whether to offer payment, in what amounts, and for what purpose, but also to consider whether differential payment can help promote the scientific and ethical goals of clinical research. (shrink)
The revised Common Rule includes a new option for the conduct of secondary research with identifiable data and biospecimens: regulatory broad consent. Motivated by concerns regarding autonomy and trust in the research enterprise, regulators had initially proposed broad consent in a manner that would have rendered it the exclusive approach to secondary research with all biospecimens, regardless of identifiability. Based on public comments from both researchers and patients concerned that this approach would hinder important medical advances, however, regulators decided to (...) largely preserve the status quo approach to secondary research with biospecimens and data. The Final Rule therefore allows such research to proceed without specific informed consent in a number of circumstances, but it also offers regulatory broad consent as a new, optional pathway for secondary research with identifiable data and biospecimens. In this article, we describe the parameters of regulatory broad consent under the new rule, explain why researchers and research institutions are unlikely to utilize it, outline recommendations for regulatory broad consent issued by the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections, and sketch an empirical research agenda for the sorts of questions about regulatory broad consent that remain to be answered as the research community embarks on Final Rule implementation. (shrink)
To ensure that the information resulting from research is relevant to patients, the Patient‐Centered Outcomes Research Institute eschews the “traditional health research” paradigm, in which investigators drive all aspects of research, in favor of one in which patients assume the role of research partner. If we accept the premise that patient engagement can offer fresh perspectives that shape research in valuable ways, then at least two important sets of questions present themselves. First, how are patients being engaged—and how should they (...) be engaged? Second, which patients are being engaged—and which patients should be? This set has received relatively less attention, and the neglect is surprising, given that the “who” question is conceptually prior to the question of “how.”This article focuses attention on the “who” of patient engagement in research. First, we provide background on the rationale for patient engagement, underscoring the importance of ensuring the representativeness of engaged patients. Second, we present what little is known about patients engaged in PCORI‐funded research. Third, we identify and discuss the ethical implications of ways in which current practices of patient identification and recruitment may lead to a lack of representativeness. These practices include reliance on the well‐connected and well‐informed, reliance on patients who are not well trained or well‐informed, and reliance on patient advocacy organizations. Finally, we consider several strategies for addressing these pitfalls in order to maximize the positive goals of patient engagement. Patient engagement is intended to address the inability of researchers, funders, and others to fully represent patient views and priorities, but without sufficient attention, the patients selected for this role may still leave important gaps. (shrink)
Since 2011, the research community had waited with bated breath as regulators contemplated for the first time bringing secondary research with nonidentifiable biospecimens under the Common Rule and dramatically tightening the criteria for waiving consent to biospecimen research. After considerable pushback from both researchers and patients and amid rumors of intractable disagreement among Common Rule agencies, the Final Rule published on the last day of President Obama's administration left out these troubling changes, and there was a collective sigh of relief. (...) Relief is appropriate, but celebration premature: researchers have little reason to avail themselves of the new broad consent option offered in the Final Rule, and the question of whether biospecimens ought to be treated as inherently identifiable has merely been postponed. (shrink)
The right to withdraw from research without penalty is well established around the world. However, it has been challenged in some corners of bioethics based on concerns about various harms—to participants, to scientific integrity, and to research bystanders—that may stem from withdrawal. These concerns have become particularly salient in emerging debates about the ethics of controlled human infection (CHI) studies in which participants are intentionally infected with pathogens, often in inpatient settings with extensive follow‐up. In this article, I provide support (...) for preserving the right to withdraw from research without penalty and demonstrate that it is also typically justified in the specific context of CHI studies. The right is well aligned with individual freedoms outside the research setting, where autonomous individuals are permitted to engage in behaviors that will foreseeably cause them harm; where they cannot be compelled to satisfy contracts for their services, nor penalized for failure to do so; and where their behavior is not constrained by public health authorities except in extreme circumstances. These freedoms are supported by U.S. law, as well as by ethical analysis that is more globally relevant. The problems associated with the right to withdraw, however, remain. The best approach to addressing them is not to restrict the right but rather to avoid initiating research when withdrawal would be especially problematic. If research proceeds, steps can still be taken to minimize participant withdrawal without infringing the right. Investigators can avoid participant surprise through informed consent focused on a study’s most burdensome aspects and promote study completion through financial incentives. Should participants nonetheless seek to withdraw, investigators may attempt to persuade them not to do so by encouraging consideration of the range of potential harms that may result. Researchers conducting CHI studies and other research from which withdrawal might be especially problematic should prepare for the possibility of participant withdrawal, respect participant requests to withdraw without penalty, and incorporate various measures to avoid such requests. (shrink)
On September 8, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to revise the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, widely known as the “Common Rule.” The NPRM proposes several changes to the current system, including a dramatic shift in the approach to secondary research using biospecimens and data. Under the current rules, it is relatively easy to use biospecimens and data for secondary research. This approach systematically facilitates secondary research with (...) biospecimens and data, maximizing the capacity for substantial public benefit. However, it has been criticized as insufficiently protective of the privacy and autonomy interests of biospecimen and data sources. Thus, the NPRM proposes a more restrictive regime, although more so for biospecimens than data. Both the status quo and the NPRM's proposal are critically flawed. (shrink)
Background Institutional review board (IRB) expertise is necessarily limited by maintaining a manageable board size. IRBs are therefore permitted by regulation to rely on outside experts for review. However, little is known about whether, when, why, and how IRBs use outside experts.Methods We conducted a national survey of U.S. IRBs to characterize utilization of outside experts. Our study uses a descriptive, cross-sectional design to understand how IRBs engage with such experts and to identify areas where outside expertise is most frequently (...) requested.Results The survey response rate was 18.4%, with 55.4% of respondents reporting their institution’s IRB uses outside experts. Nearly all respondents who reported using outside experts indicated they do so less than once a month, but occasionally each year (95%). The most common method of identifying an outside expert was securing a previously known subject matter expert (83.3%). Most frequently, respondents sought consultation for scientific expertise not held by current members (69.6%). Almost all respondents whose IRBs had used outside experts reported an overall positive impact on the IRB review process (91.5%).Conclusions Just over half of the IRBs in our sample report use of outside experts; among them, outside experts were described as helpful, but their use was infrequent overall. Many IRBs report not relying on outside experts at all. This raises important questions about what type of engagement with outside experts should be viewed as optimal to promote the highest quality review. For example, few respondents sought assistance from a Community Advisory Board, which could address expertise gaps in community perspectives. Further exploration is needed to understand how to optimize IRB use of outside experts, including how to recognize when expertise is lacking, what barriers IRBs face in using outside experts, and perspectives on how outside expert review impacts IRB decision-making and review quality. (shrink)
Background Diversity in Institutional Review Board (IRB) membership is important for both intrinsic and instrumental reasons, including fairness, promoting trust, improving decision quality, and responding to systemic racism. Yet U.S. IRBs remain racially and ethnically homogeneous, even as gender diversity has improved. Little is known about IRB chairpersons’ perspectives on membership diversity and barriers to increasing it, as well as current institutional efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within IRB membership.Methods We surveyed IRB chairpersons leading U.S. boards registered (...) with the Office for Human Research Protections. Here, we focus exclusively on responses from a subset of 388 chairpersons of IRBs at universities and academic medical centers (AMCs).Results Board chairs were predominantly white and evenly split between men and women. Only about half reported that their boards had at least one member who is Black or African American (51%), Asian (56%), or Hispanic (48%), with 85% of university/AMC boards comprised entirely (15%) or mostly (70%) of white members. Most IRB chairpersons (64%) reported satisfaction with the current diversity of their membership. Participants largely agreed that considering diversity in the selection of IRB members is important (91%), including to improve the quality of IRB deliberation (80%), with an emphasis on racial/ethnic (85%) and gender diversity (74%). Most participants (80%) reported some type of active DEI effort regarding board membership at their university/AMC and just over half (57%) expressed satisfaction with these efforts.Conclusions Our national survey found that although university/AMC IRB chairpersons report valuing diversity in board membership, it may be lacking in key areas. Going forward, it will be important to specify clear reasons for diversity in the IRB context, as well to establish targets for acceptable levels of board diversity and to match DEI efforts to those targets. (shrink)
Background Meaningfully evaluating the quality of institutional review boards (IRBs) and human research protection programs (HRPPs) is a long-recognized challenge. To be accredited by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs (AAHRPP), organizations must demonstrate that they measure and improve HRPP “quality, effectiveness, and efficiency” (QEE). We sought to learn how AAHRPP-accredited organizations interpret and satisfy this standard, in order to assess strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in current approaches and to inform recommendations for improvement.Methods We conducted 3 (...) small-group interviews with a total of 19 participant representatives of accredited organizations at the 2019 AAHRPP annual meeting. Participants were eligible if they had familiarity with their organization’s approach to satisfying the relevant QEE standard.Results Participants reported lacking clear definitions for HRPP quality or effectiveness but described various approaches to assessing QEE, typically focused on turnaround time, compliance, and researcher satisfaction. Evaluation of IRB members was described as relatively superficial and information regarding research subject experience was not reported as central to QEE assessment, although participants described several efforts to improve consideration of patient, subject, and community perspectives in IRB review. Participants also described efforts to educate and build relationships with key stakeholders as important features of a high-quality HRPP. While generally satisfied with their approaches, participants expressed concern about resource and time constraints that pushed them to be reactive and automatic about QEE, rather than proactive and critical.Conclusions The relevant AAHRPP accreditation standard may obscure critical gaps in defining and measuring QEE elements. We recommend that AAHRPP: (1) offer a definition of QEE or require accredited organizations to provide their own, to help clarify the rationale and goals behind assessment and improvement efforts, and (2) require accredited organizations to establish QEE objectives and measures focused on participant outcomes and deliberative quality during protocol review. (shrink)
How can we ensure that players in the National Football League receive excellent health care they can trust from providers who are as free from conflicts of interest as realistically possible? NFL players typically receive care from the club's own medical staff. Club doctors are clearly important stakeholders in player health. They diagnose and treat players for a variety of ailments, physical and mental, while making recommendations to the player concerning those ailments. At the same time, club doctors have obligations (...) to the club, namely to inform and advise clubs about the health status of players. While players and clubs share an interest in player health—both of them want players to be healthy so they can play at peak performance—there are several areas where their interests can diverge, and the divergence presents legal and ethical challenges. The current structure forces club doctors to have obligations to two parties—the club and the player—and to make difficult judgments about when one party's interests must yield to another's. None of the three parties involved should prefer this conflicted approach. We propose to resolve the problem of dual loyalty by largely severing the club doctor's ties with the club and refashioning that role into one of singular loyalty to the player-patient. The main idea is to separate the roles of serving the player and serving the club and replace them with two distinct sets of medical professionals: the Players' Medical Staff and the Club Evaluation Doctor. We begin by explaining the broad ethical principles that guide us and that help shape our recommendation. We then provide a description of the role of the club doctor in the current system. After explaining the concern about the current NFL player health care structure, we provide a recommendation for improving this structure. We then discuss how the club medical staff fits into the broader microenvironment affecting player health. (shrink)
When new drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the default assumption is that they will be available by prescription only, safe for use exclusively under clinical supervision. The paternalism underlying this default must be interrogated in order to ensure appropriate respect for patient autonomy. Upon closer inspection, prescription requirements are justified when nonprescription status would risk harm to third parties and when a large segment of the population would struggle to exercise their autonomy in using a drug (...) safely and effectively on their own. Although these justifications can support prescription status for many drugs, we propose that reversing the FDA's current default to instead begin with a presumption in favor of over‐the‐counter status is the best way to avoid interference with valid claims of patient autonomy. Under this approach, a range of drug products could be considered for an OTC switch, including oral contraceptives, statins, and HIV‐prevention drugs. (shrink)
We argue that the universal recommendations against “off-label” pediatric use of approved COVID-19 issued by the FDA, CDC, and AAP are overbroad. Especially for higher-risk children, vaccination can be ethically justified even before FDA authorization or approval – and similar reasoning is relevant for even younger patients. Legal risks can also be managed, although the FDA, CDC, and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should move quickly to provide clarity.
Ensuring that clinical trials, once launched, successfully complete and generate useful knowledge is an important and indeed ethically imperative goal, given the risks and burdens borne by research participants. Since there are insufficient willing research participants to power all the trials that are currently undertaken,1 addressing underenrolment will require prioritisation decisions that reduce the number of trials competing for participants. While there are multiple levels at which research priority-setting can and does take place, competition between trials often plays out in (...) real time at the institutional or site level, where complex decisions must be made about how to manage overlapping trials in ways that balance different considerations, including the risk of non-completion. We sought to explore what research institutions in particular might ethically do to mitigate the risk that competition between trials will contribute to recruitment shortfalls. Against this backdrop, we appreciate the thoughtful replies to our article and are especially encouraged that all three respondents acknowledge the importance and indeed necessity of setting research priorities in ways that respect the rights and interests of various parties. The key question raised by the commentaries primarily concerns not whether research prioritisation should take place but rather how it is best accomplished. In what follows, we clarify our argument in the original article, and then focus on several points raised in the commentaries regarding the role of institutions in research priority-setting. Our approach is animated by the risk that competition between clinical trials for the same population of participants can be a cause of underenrolment when there are insufficient participants to meet the statistical needs of all open studies. In such situations, one or more of the competing studies will fail to meet recruitment targets, reducing their statistical ability to answer the research question. There are strong ethical reasons to avoid …. (shrink)
In its recent review of the US Public Health Service Sexually Transmitted Disease Inoculation Study, conducted in Guatemala from 1946 to 1948, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues identified a number of egregious ethical violations, but failed to adequately address issues associated with the intentional exposure research design in particular. As a result, a common public misconception that the study was wrong because researchers purposefully infected their subjects has been left standing. In fact, human subjects have been (...) exposed to disease pathogens for experimental purposes for centuries, and this study design remains an important scientific tool today. It shares key features with other types of widely accepted research on human subjects and can be conducted ethically, provided certain safeguards are implemented. That these safeguards were not implemented in Guatemala is what made that study wrong, rather than the fact of intentional exposure itself. To preserve public trust in the clinical research enterprise, this conclusion ought to be stated explicitly and emphasised. (shrink)
Vermeulen et al. suggest a moral duty exists for physicians to inform patients of “relevant opportunities” for Expanded Access. Such a duty is likely both too broad, leading to important practical challenges, and too narrow, without further steps to promote patient access. However, physicians should be expected to be aware of the EA pathway, disclose it to eligible patients, and support the pursuit of EA options reasonably likely to help.
Law and racism are intertwined, with legal tools bearing the potential to serve as instruments of oppression or equity. This Special Issue explores this dual nature of health law, with attention to policing in the context of mental health, schools, and substance use disorders; industry and the environment in the context of food advertising, tobacco regulation, worker safety, and environmental racism; health care and research in the context of infant mortality, bias in medical applications of AI, and diverse inclusion in (...) research; and anti-racist teaching and practice in the context of building an interprofessional curriculum and medical-legal partnerships. (shrink)
When research poses risks to non‐participant bystanders, it is not always practicable to obtain their consent. One approach to assessing how much research risk may be imposed on nonconsenting bystanders is to examine analogous circumstances, including risk thresholds deemed acceptable for nonconsenting research participants and for nonconsensual risks imposed outside the research setting. For nonconsenting participants, US research regulations typically limit risks to those deemed to be “minimal.” Outside the research context, US tort law tolerates a more flexible “reasonable” risk (...) threshold. This article advances a preliminary case that nonconsenting participants and nonconsenting bystanders exposed to similar research risks may be entitled to the same level of protection, but that risks generated by research may not be special in kind. Thus, limiting research risks to those that are “reasonable,” rather than demanding that they be held to the “minimal” standard, may be the best approach for both nonconsenting participants and nonconsenting bystanders. Further work is needed to establish whether the descriptive standards used to support the analogies relied on here are normatively justifiable, as well as the extent to which the minimal risk standard and the reasonable risk standard would lead to meaningfully different outcomes in practice. (shrink)
Our article “NFL Player Health Care: Addressing Club Doctors’ Conflicts of Interests and Promoting Player Trust” focused on an inherent structural conflict that faces club doctors in the National Football League. The conflict stems from club doctors’ dual role of providing medical care to players and providing strategic advice to clubs. We recommended assigning these roles to different individuals, with the medical staff members who are responsible for providing player care being chosen and subject to review and termination by a (...) committee of medical experts selected equally by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Recognizing that the problem of structural conflict of interest is deeply entrenched and that our recommendation is a significant departure from the status quo, we invited comment from a diverse and highly qualified group of experts. There is considerable common ground among the commentators. All but one agreed with us that, despite the best intentions of upstanding professionals, there is a structural conflict of interest in the club doctors’ relationship with players, and the commentaries were generally supportive of our recommendation for change. There are also meaningful disagreements, however. Some commentators think that the proposal is on the right track but does not go far enough to reduce the structural conflict of interest, and one commentary wholly disagrees with our analysis and recommendations. (shrink)
In most U.S. jurisdictions, clinicians providing informal “curbside” consults are protected from medical malpractice liability due to the absence of a doctor-patient relationship. A recent Minnesota Supreme Court case, Warren v. Dinter, offers the opportunity to reassess whether the majority rule is truly serving the best interests of patients.