Four ethical values — maximizing benefits, treating equally, promoting and rewarding instrumental value, and giving priority to the worst off — yield six specific recommendations for allocating medical resources in the Covid-19 pandemic: maximize benefits; prioritize health workers; do not allocate on a first-come, first-served basis; be responsive to evidence; recognize research participation; and apply the same principles to all Covid-19 and non–Covid-19 patients.
In this paper we discuss ethical implications of the use of mobile phone apps in the control of the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact tracing is a well-established feature of public health practice during infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics. However, the high proportion of pre-symptomatic transmission in COVID-19 means that standard contact tracing methods are too slow to stop the progression of infection through the population. To address this problem, many countries around the world have deployed or are developing mobile phone apps (...) capable of supporting instantaneous contact tracing. Informed by the on-going mapping of ‘proximity events’ these apps are intended both to inform public health policy and to provide alerts to individuals who have been in contact with a person with the infection. The proposed use of mobile phone data for ‘intelligent physical distancing’ in such contexts raises a number of important ethical questions. In our paper, we outline some ethical considerations that need to be addressed in any deployment of this kind of approach as part of a multidimensional public health response. We also, briefly, explore the implications for its use in future infectious disease outbreaks. (shrink)
Realizing the benefits of translating psychiatric genomics research into mental health care is not straightforward. The translation process gives rise to ethical challenges that are distinctive from challenges posed within psychiatric genomics research itself, or that form part of the delivery of clinical psychiatric genetics services. This article outlines and considers three distinct ethical concerns posed by the process of translating genomic research into frontline psychiatric practice and policy making. First, the genetic essentialism that is commonly associated with the genomics (...) revolution in health care might inadvertently exacerbate stigma towards people with mental disorders. Secondly, the promises of genomic medicine advance a narrative of individual empowerment. This narrative could promote a fatalism towards patients' biology in ways that function in practice to undermine patients' agency and autonomy, or, alternatively, a heightened sense of subjective genetic responsibility could become embedded within mental health services that leads to psychosocial therapeutic approaches and the clinician-patient therapeutic alliance being undermined. Finally, adopting a genomics-focused approach to public mental health risks shifting attention away from the complex causal relationships between inequitable socio-economic, political, and cultural structures and negative mental health outcomes. The article concludes by outlining a number of potential pathways for future ethics research that emphasizes the importance of examining appropriate translation mechanisms, the complementarity between genetic and psychosocial models of mental disorder, the implications of genomic information for the clinician-patient relationship, and funding priorities and resource allocation decision making in mental health. (shrink)
Seeking consent for genetic and genomic research can be challenging, particularly in populations with low literacy levels, and in emergency situations. All of these factors were relevant to the MalariaGEN study of genetic factors influencing immune responses to malaria in northern rural Ghana. This study sought to identify issues arising in practice during the enrolment of paediatric cases with severe malaria and matched healthy controls into the MalariaGEN study.
BackgroundGenome-wide association studies provide a powerful means of identifying genetic variants that play a role in common diseases. Such studies present important ethical challenges. An increasing number of GWAS is taking place in lower income countries and there is a pressing need to identify the particular ethical challenges arising in such contexts. In this paper, we draw upon the experiences of the MalariaGEN Consortium to identify specific ethical issues raised by such research in Africa, Asia and Oceania.DiscussionWe explore ethical issues (...) in three key areas: protecting the interests of research participants, regulation of international collaborative genomics research and protecting the interests of scientists in low income countries. With regard to participants, important challenges are raised about community consultation and consent. Genomics research raises ethical and governance issues about sample export and ownership, about the use of archived samples and about the complexity of reviewing such large international projects. In the context of protecting the interests of researchers in low income countries, we discuss aspects of data sharing and capacity building that need to be considered for sustainable and mutually beneficial collaborations.SummaryMany ethical issues are raised when genomics research is conducted on populations that are characterised by lower average income and literacy levels, such as the populations included in MalariaGEN. It is important that such issues are appropriately addressed in such research. Our experience suggests that the ethical issues in genomics research can best be identified, analysed and addressed where ethics is embedded in the design and implementation of such research projects. (shrink)
Background: Seeking consent for genetic and genomic research can be challenging, particularly in populations with low literacy levels, and in emergency situations. All of these factors were relevant to the MalariaGEN study of genetic factors influencing immune responses to malaria in northern rural Ghana. This study sought to identify issues arising in practice during the enrolment of paediatric cases with severe malaria and matched healthy controls into the MalariaGEN study. Methods: The study used a rapid assessment incorporating multiple qualitative methods (...) including in depth interviews, focus group discussions and observations of consent processes. Differences between verbal information provided during community engagement processes, and consent processes during the enrolment of cases and controls were identified, as well as the factors influencing the tailoring of such information. Results: MalariaGEN participants and field staff seeking consent were generally satisfied with their understanding of the project and were familiar with aspects of the study relating to malaria. Some genetic aspects of the study were also well understood. Participants and staff seeking consent were less aware of the methodologies employed during genomic research and their implications, such as the breadth of data generated and the potential for future secondary research.Moreover, trust in and previous experience with the Navrongo Health Research Centre which was conducting the research influenced beliefs about the benefits of participating in the MalariaGEN study and subsequent decision-making about research participation. Conclusions: It is important to recognise that some aspects of complex genomic research may be of less interest to and less well understood by research participants and that such gaps in understanding may not be entirely addressed by best practice in the design and conduct of consent processes. In such circumstances consideration needs to be given to additional protections for participants that may need to be implemented in such research, and how best to provide such protections.Capacity building for research ethics committees with limited familiarity with genetic and genomic research, and appropriate engagement with communities to elicit opinions of the ethical issues arising and acceptability of downstream uses of genome wide association data are likely to be important. (shrink)
A probability distribution is regular if no possible event is assigned probability zero. While some hold that probabilities should always be regular, three counter-arguments have been posed based on examples where, if regularity holds, then perfectly similar events must have different probabilities. Howson (2017) and Benci et al. (2016) have raised technical objections to these symmetry arguments, but we see here that their objections fail. Howson says that Williamson’s (2007) “isomorphic” events are not in fact isomorphic, but Howson is speaking (...) of set-theoretic representations of events in a probability model. While those sets are not isomorphic, Williamson’s physical events are, in the relevant sense. Benci et al. claim that all three arguments rest on a conflation of different models, but they do not. They are founded on the premise that similar events should have the same probability in the same model, or in one case, on the assumption that a single rotation-invariant distribution is possible. Having failed to refute the symmetry arguments on such technical grounds, one could deny their implicit premises, which is a heavy cost, or adopt varying degrees of instrumentalism or pluralism about regularity, but that would not serve the project of accurately modelling chances. (shrink)
A probability distribution is regular if it does not assign probability zero to any possible event. While some hold that probabilities should always be regular, three counter-arguments have been posed based on examples where, if regularity holds, then perfectly similar events must have different probabilities. Howson and Benci et al. have raised technical objections to these symmetry arguments, but we see here that their objections fail. Howson says that Williamson’s “isomorphic” events are not in fact isomorphic, but Howson is speaking (...) of set-theoretic representations of events in a probability model. While those sets are not isomorphic, Williamson’s physical events are, in the relevant sense. Benci et al. claim that all three arguments rest on a conflation of different models, but they do not. They are founded on the premise that similar events should have the same probability in the same model, or in one case, on the assumption that a single rotation-invariant distribution is possible. Having failed to refute the symmetry arguments on such technical grounds, one could deny their implicit premises, which is a heavy cost, or adopt varying degrees of instrumentalism or pluralism about regularity, but that would not serve the project of accurately modelling chances. (shrink)
Recent work has defended “Euclidean” theories of set size, in which Cantor’s Principle (two sets have equally many elements if and only if there is a one-to-one correspondence between them) is abandoned in favor of the Part-Whole Principle (if A is a proper subset of B then A is smaller than B). It has also been suggested that Gödel’s argument for the unique correctness of Cantor’s Principle is inadequate. Here we see from simple examples, not that Euclidean theories of set (...) size are wrong, but that they must be either very weak and narrow or largely arbitrary and misleading. (shrink)
The importance of communities in strengthening the ethics of international collaborative research is increasingly highlighted, but there has been much debate about the meaning of the term ‘community’ and its specific normative contribution. We argue that ‘community’ is a contingent concept that plays an important normative role in research through the existence of morally significant interplay between notions of community and individuality. We draw on experience of community engagement in rural Kenya to illustrate two aspects of this interplay: (i) that (...) taking individual informed consent seriously involves understanding and addressing the influence of communities in which individuals’ lives are embedded; (ii) that individual participation can generate risks and benefits for communities as part of the wider implications of research. We further argue that the contingent nature of a community means that defining boundaries is generally a normative process itself, with ethical implications. Community engagement supports the enactment of normative roles; building mutual understanding and trust between researchers and community members have been important goals in Kilifi, requiring a broad range of approaches. Ethical dilemmas are continuously generated as part of these engagement activities, including the risks of perverse outcomes related to existing social relations in communities and conditions of ‘half knowing’ intrinsic to processes of developing new understandings. (shrink)
Julian Savulescu argues for two principles of reproductive ethics: reproductive autonomy and procreative beneficence, where the principle of procreative beneficence is conceptualised in terms of a duty to have the child, of the possible children that could be had, who will have the best opportunity of the best life. Were it to be accepted, this principle would have significant implications for the ethics of reproductive choice and, in particular, for the use of prenatal testing and other reproductive technologies for the (...) avoidance of disability, and for enhancement. In this paper, it is argued that this principle should be rejected, and it is concluded that while potential parents do have important obligations in relation to the foreseeable lives of their future children, these obligations are not best captured in terms of a duty to have the child with the best opportunity of the best life. (shrink)
Community engagement has been recognised as an important aspect of the ethical conduct of biomedical research, especially when research is focused on ethnically or culturally distinct populations. While this is a generally accepted tenet of biomedical research, it is unclear what components are necessary for effective community engagement, particularly in the context of genomic research in Africa.
ObjectiveTo increase knowledge of how doctors perceive futile treatments and scarcity of resources at the end of life. In particular, their perceptions about whether and how resource limitations influence end-of-life decision making. This study builds on previous work that found some doctors include resource limitations in their understanding of the concept of futility.SettingThree tertiary hospitals in metropolitan Brisbane, Australia.DesignQualitative study using in-depth, semistructured, face-to-face interviews. Ninety-six doctors were interviewed in 11 medical specialties. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed using thematic (...) analysis.ResultsDoctors’ perceptions of whether resource limitations were relevant to their practice varied, and doctors were more comfortable with explicit rather than implicit rationing. Several doctors incorporated resource limitations into their definition of futility. For some, availability of resources was one factor of many in assessing futility, secondary to patient considerations, but a few doctors indicated that the concept of futility concealed rationing. Doctors experienced moral distress due to the resource implications of providing futile treatment and the lack of administrative supports for bedside rationing.ConclusionsDoctors’ ability to distinguish between futility and rationing would be enhanced through regulatory support for explicit rationing and strategies to support doctors’ role in rationing at the bedside. Medical policies should address the distinction between resource limitations and futility to promote legitimacy in end-of-life decision making. (shrink)
During the WHO-GloPID COVID-19 Global Research and Innovation Forum meeting held in Geneva on the 11th and 12th of February 2020 a number of different ethical concepts were used. This paper briefly states what a number of these concepts mean and how they might be applied to discussions about research during the COVID-19 pandemic and related outbreaks. This paper does not seek to be exhaustive and other ethical concepts are, of course, relevant and important.
Community engagement is increasingly promoted as a marker of good, ethical practice in the context of international collaborative research in low-income countries. There is, however, no widely agreed definition of community engagement or of approaches adopted. Justifications given for its use also vary. Community engagement is, for example, variously seen to be of value in: the development of more effective and appropriate consent processes; improved understanding of the aims and forms of research; higher recruitment rates; the identification of important ethical (...) issues; the building of better relationships between the community and researchers; the obtaining of community permission to approach potential research participants; and, the provision of better health care. Despite these diverse and potentially competing claims made for the importance of community engagement, there is very little published evidence on effective models of engagement or their evaluation. (shrink)
BackgroundObtaining informed consent for participation in genomic research in low-income settings presents specific ethical issues requiring attention. These include the challenges that arise when providing information about unfamiliar and technical research methods, the implications of complicated infrastructure and data sharing requirements, and the potential consequences of future research with samples and data. This study investigated researchers’ and participants’ parents’ experiences of a consent process and understandings of a genome-wide association study of malaria involving children aged five and under in Mali. (...) It aimed to inform best practices in recruiting participants into genomic research.MethodsA qualitative rapid ethical assessment was undertaken. Fifty-five semi-structured interviews were conducted with the parents of research participants. An additional nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with senior research scientists, research assistants and with a member of an ethics committee. A focus group with five parents of research participants and direct observations of four consent processes were also conducted. French and translated English transcripts were descriptively and thematically coded using OpenCode software.ResultsParticipants’ parents in the MalariaGEN study had differing understandings of the causes of malaria, the rationale for collecting blood samples, the purposes of the study and the kinds of information the study would generate. Genomic aspects of the research, including the gene/environment interaction underlying susceptibility or resistance to severe malaria, proved particularly challenging to explain and understand.ConclusionsThis study identifies a number of areas to be addressed in the design of consent processes for genomic research, some of which require careful ethical analysis. These include determining how much information should be provided about differing aspects of the research and how best to promote understandings of genomic research. We conclude that it is important to build capacity in the design and conduct of effective and appropriate consent processes for genomic research in low and middle-income settings. Additionally, consideration should be given to the role of review committees and community consultation activities in protecting the interests of participants in genomic research. (shrink)
BackgroundCommunity engagement is increasingly promoted as a marker of good, ethical practice in the context of international collaborative research in low-income countries. There is, however, no widely agreed definition of community engagement or of approaches adopted. Justifications given for its use also vary. Community engagement is, for example, variously seen to be of value in: the development of more effective and appropriate consent processes; improved understanding of the aims and forms of research; higher recruitment rates; the identification of important ethical (...) issues; the building of better relationships between the community and researchers; the obtaining of community permission to approach potential research participants; and, the provision of better health care. Despite these diverse and potentially competing claims made for the importance of community engagement, there is very little published evidence on effective models of engagement or their evaluation.MethodsIn this paper, drawing upon interviews with the members of a Community Advisory Board on the Thai-Myanmar border, we describe and critically reflect upon an approach to community engagement which was developed in the context of international collaborative research in the border region.Results and conclusionsDrawing on our analysis, we identify a number of considerations relevant to the development of an approach to evaluating community engagement in this complex research setting. The paper also identifies a range of important ways in which the Community Advisory Board is in practice understood by its members to have morally significant roles and responsibilities beyond those usually associated with the successful and appropriate conduct of research. (shrink)
Genomic research and biobanking present several ethical, social and cultural challenges, particularly when conducted in settings with limited scientific research capacity. One of these challenges is determining the model of consent that should support the sharing of human biological samples and data in the context of international collaborative research. In this paper, we report on the views of key research stakeholders in Ghana on what should count as good ethical practice when seeking consent for genomic research and biobanking in Africa. (...) This study was part of a multi-country qualitative case study conducted in three African countries: Ghana, Uganda and Zambia under the auspices of the Human Heredity and Health in Africa initiative. Our study suggests that while participants are willing to give consent for their samples and associated data to be used for future research purposes, they expect to receive feedback about the progress of the research and about the kinds of research being undertaken on their samples and data. These expectations need to be anticipated and discussed during the consent process which should be seen as part of an ongoing communication process throughout the research process. (shrink)
In recent years, there has been an increase in the establishment of biobanks for genetic and genomic studies around the globe. One example of this is the Human Heredity and Health in Africa Initiative, which has established biobanks in the sub-region to facilitate future indigenous genomic studies. The concept of ‘broad consent’ has been proposed as a mechanism to enable potential research participants in biobanks to give permission for their samples to be used in future research studies. However, questions remain (...) about the acceptability of this model of consent. Drawing on findings from empirical research about the role of trust in decision-making, we argue that an account of entrustment may be an appropriate way of addressing current challenges of seeking consent for biobank research in Africa. We propose a set of key points to consider that can support the proposed entrustment framework. (shrink)
Background Increase in global health research undertaken in resource poor settings in the last decade though a positive development has raised ethical concerns relating to potential for exploitation. Some of the suggested strategies to address these concerns include calls for providing universal standards of care, reasonable availability of proven interventions and more recently, promoting the overall social value of research especially in clinical research. Promoting the social value of research has been closely associated with providing fair benefits to various stakeholders (...) involved in research. The debate over what constitutes fair benefits; whether those that addresses micro level issues of justice or those focusing on the key determinants of health at the macro level has continued. This debate has however not benefited from empirical work on what stakeholders consider fair benefits. This study explores practical experiences of stakeholders involved in global health research in Kenya, over what benefits are fair within a developing world context. Methods and results We conducted in-depth interviews with key informants drawn from within the broader health research system in Kenya including researchers from the mainstream health research institutions, networks and universities, teaching hospitals, policy makers, institutional review boards, civil society organisations and community representative groups. The range of benefits articulated by stakeholders addresses both micro and macro level concerns for justice by for instance, seeking to engage with interests of those facilitating research, and the broader systemic issues that make resource poor settings vulnerable to exploitation. We interpret these views to suggest a need for global health research to engage with current crises that face people in these settings as well as the broader systemic issues that produce them. Conclusion Global health research should provide benefits that address both the micro and macro level issues of justice in order to forestall exploitation. Embracing the two is however challenging in terms of how the various competing interests/needs should be balanced ethically, especially in the absence of structures to guide the process. This challenge should point to the need for greater dialogue to facilitate value clarification among stakeholders. (shrink)
Over several decades, ethics and law have been applied to medical education and practice in a way that reflects the continuation during the twentieth century of the strong distinction between facts and values. We explain the development of applied ethics and applied medical law and report selected results that reflect this applied model from an empirical project examining doctors’ decisions on withdrawing/withholding treatment from patients who lack decision-making capacity. The model is critiqued, and an alternative “constitutive” model is supported on (...) the basis that medicine, medical law, and medical ethics exemplify the inevitable entanglement of facts and values. The model requires that ethics and law be taught across the medical education curriculum and integrated with the basic and clinical sciences and that they be perceived as an integral component of medical evidence and practice. Law, in particular, would rank as equal in normative authority to the relevant clinical scientific “facts” of the case, with graduating doctors having as strong a basic command of each category as the other. The normalization of legal knowledge as part of the clinician’s evidence base to be utilized in practice may provide adequate consolation for clinicians who may initially resent further perceived incursions on their traditional independence and discretion. (shrink)
As an application of his Material Theory of Induction, Norton (2018; manuscript) argues that the correct inductive logic for a fair infinite lottery, and also for evaluating eternal inflation multiverse models, is radically different from standard probability theory. This is due to a requirement of label independence. It follows, Norton argues, that finite additivity fails, and any two sets of outcomes with the same cardinality and co-cardinality have the same chance. This makes the logic useless for evaluating multiverse models based (...) on self-locating chances, so Norton claims that we should despair of such attempts. However, his negative results depend on a certain reification of chance, consisting in the treatment of inductive support as the value of a function, a value not itself affected by relabeling. Here we define a purely comparative infinite lottery logic, where there are no primitive chances but only a relation of ‘at most as likely’ and its derivatives. This logic satisfies both label independence and a comparative version of additivity as well as several other desirable properties, and it draws finer distinctions between events than Norton's. Consequently, it yields better advice about choosing between sets of lottery tickets than Norton's, but it does not appear to be any more helpful for evaluating multiverse models. Hence, the limitations of Norton's logic are not entirely due to the failure of additivity, nor to the fact that all infinite, co-infinite sets of outcomes have the same chance, but to a more fundamental problem: We have no well-motivated way of comparing disjoint countably infinite sets. (shrink)
BackgroundHuman infection studies are valuable in vaccine development. Deliberate infection, however, creates challenging questions, particularly in low and middle-income countries where HIS are new and ethical challenges may be heightened. Consultation with stakeholders is needed to support contextually appropriate and acceptable study design. We examined stakeholder perceptions about the acceptability and ethics of HIS in Malawi, to inform decisions about planned pneumococcal challenge research and wider understanding of HIS ethics in LMICs.MethodsWe conducted 6 deliberative focus groups and 15 follow-up interviews (...) with research staff, medical students, and community representatives from rural and urban Blantyre. We also conducted 5 key informant interviews with clinicians, ethics committee members, and district health government officials.ResultsStakeholders perceived HIS research to have potential population health benefits, but they also had concerns, particularly related to the safety of volunteers and negative community reactions. Acceptability depended on a range of conditions related to procedures for voluntary and informed consent, inclusion criteria, medical care or support, compensation, regulation, and robust community engagement. These conditions largely mirror those in existing guidelines for HIS and biomedical research in LMICs. Stakeholder perceptions pointed to potential tensions, for example, balancing equity, safety, and relevance in inclusion criteria.ConclusionsOur findings suggest HIS research could be acceptable in Malawi, provided certain conditions are in place. Ongoing assessment of participant experiences and stakeholder perceptions will be required to strengthen HIS research during development and roll-out. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The use of broad consent for genomics research raises important ethical questions for the conduct of genomics research, including relating to its acceptability to research participants and comprehension of difficult scientific concepts. To explore these and other challenges, we conducted a study using qualitative methods with participants enrolled in an H3Africa Rheumatic Heart Disease genomics study in Zambia to explore their views on broad consent, sample and data sharing and secondary use. In-depth interviews were conducted with RHDGen participants, study (...) staff and with individuals who refused to participate. In general, broad consent was seen to be reasonable if reasons for storing the samples for future research use were disclosed. Some felt that broad consent should be restricted by specifying planned future studies and that secondary research should ideally relate to original disease for which samples were collected. A few participants felt that broad consent would delay the return of research results to participants. This study echoes findings in other similar studies in other parts of the continent that suggested that broad consent could be an acceptable consent model in Africa if careful thought is given to restrictions on re-use. (shrink)
International health research in malaria-endemic settings may include screening for sickle cell disease, given the relationship between this important genetic condition and resistance to malaria, generating questions about whether and how findings should be disclosed. The literature on disclosing genetic findings in the context of research highlights the role of community consultation in understanding and balancing ethically important issues from participants’ perspectives, including social forms of benefit and harm, and the influence of access to care. To inform research practice locally, (...) and contribute to policy more widely, this study aimed to explore the views of local residents in Kilifi County in coastal Kenya on how researchers should manage study-generated information on sickle cell disease and carrier status. (shrink)
Population-level biomedical research offers new opportunities to improve population health, but also raises new challenges to traditional systems of research governance and ethical oversight. Partly in response to these challenges, various models of public involvement in research are being introduced. Yet, the ways in which public involvement should meet governance challenges are not well understood. We conducted a qualitative study with 36 experts and stakeholders using the World Café method to identify key governance challenges and explore how public involvement can (...) meet these challenges. This brief report discusses four cross-cutting themes from the study: the need to move beyond individual consent; issues in benefit and data sharing; the challenge of delineating and understanding publics; and the goal of clarifying justifications for public involvement. The report aims to provide a starting point for making sense of the relationship between public involvement and the governance of population-level biomedical research, showing connections, potential solutions and issues arising at their intersection. We suggest that, in population-level biomedical research, there is a pressing need for a shift away from conventional governance frameworks focused on the individual and towards a focus on collectives, as well as to foreground ethical issues around social justice and develop ways to address cultural diversity, value pluralism and competing stakeholder interests. There are many unresolved questions around how this shift could be realised, but these unresolved questions should form the basis for developing justificatory accounts and frameworks for suitable collective models of public involvement in population-level biomedical research governance. (shrink)
In order to involve children in the decision-making process about participation in medical research it is widely recommended that the child’s assent be sought in addition to parental consent. However, the concept of assent is fraught with difficulties, resulting in confusion among researchers and ethics committees alike.
Population-level biomedical research has become crucial to the health system’s ability to improve the health of the population. This form of research raises a number of well-documented ethical concerns, perhaps the most significant of which is the inability of the researcher to obtain fully informed specific consent from participants. Two proposed technical solutions to this problem of consent in large-scale biomedical research that have become increasingly popular are meta-consent and dynamic consent. We critically examine the ethical and practical credentials of (...) these proposals and find them lacking. We suggest that the consent problem is not solved by adopting a technology driven approach grounded in a notion of ‘specific’ consent but by taking seriously the role of research governance in combination with broader conceptions of consent. In our view, these approaches misconstrue the rightful location of authority in the way in which population-level biomedical research activities are structured and organized. We conclude by showing how and why the authority for determining the nature and shape of choice making about participation ought not to lie with individual participants, but rather with the researchers and the research governance process, and that this necessarily leads to the endorsement of a fully articulated broad consent approach. (shrink)
BackgroundPromoting the social value of global health research undertaken in resource poor settings has become a key concern in global research ethics. The consideration for benefit sharing, which concerns the elucidation of what if anything, is owed to participants, their communities and host nations that take part in such research, and the obligations of researchers involved, is one of the main strategies used for promoting social value of research. In the last decade however, there has been intense debate within academic (...) bioethics literature seeking to define the benefits, the beneficiaries, and the scope of obligations for providing these benefits. Although this debate may be indicative of willingness at the international level to engage with the responsibilities of researchers involved in global health research, it remains unclear which forms of benefits or beneficiaries should be considered. International and local research ethics guidelines are reviewed here to delineate the guidance they provide.MethodsWe reviewed documents selected from the international compilation of research ethics guidelines by the Office for Human Research Protections under the US Department of Health and Human Services.ResultsAccess to interventions being researched, the provision of unavailable health care, capacity building for individuals and institutions, support to health care systems and access to medical and public health interventions proven effective, are the commonly recommended forms of benefits. The beneficiaries are volunteers, disease or illness affected communities and the population in general. Interestingly however, there is a divide between "global opinion" and the views of particular countries within resource poor settings as made explicit by differences in emphasis regarding the potential benefits and the beneficiaries.ConclusionAlthough in theory benefit sharing is widely accepted as one of the means for promoting the social value of international collaborative health research, there is less agreement amongst major guidelines on the specific responsibilities of researchers over what is ethical in promoting the social value of research. Lack of consensus might have practical implications for efforts aimed at enhancing the social value of global health research undertaken in resource poor settings. Further developments in global research ethics require more reflection, paying attention to the practical realities of implementing the ethical principles in real world context. (shrink)
The use of broad consent for genomics research raises important ethical questions for the conduct of genomics research, including relating to its acceptability to research participants and comprehension of difficult scientific concepts. To explore these and other challenges, we conducted a study using qualitative methods with participants enrolled in an H3Africa Rheumatic Heart Disease genomics study in Zambia to explore their views on broad consent, sample and data sharing and secondary use. In-depth interviews were conducted with RHDGen participants, study staff (...) and with individuals who refused to participate. In general, broad consent was seen to be reasonable if reasons for storing the samples for future research use were disclosed. Some felt that broad consent should be restricted by specifying planned future studies and that secondary research should ideally relate to original disease for which samples were collected. A few participants felt that broad consent would delay the return of research results to participants. This study echoes findings in other similar studies in other parts of the continent that suggested that broad consent could be an acceptable consent model in Africa if careful thought is given to restrictions on re-use. (shrink)
There is no uniquely standard concept of an effectively decidable set of real numbers or real n-tuples. Here we consider three notions: decidability up to measure zero [M.W. Parker, Undecidability in Rn: Riddled basins, the KAM tori, and the stability of the solar system, Phil. Sci. 70(2) (2003) 359–382], which we abbreviate d.m.z.; recursive approximability [or r.a.; K.-I. Ko, Complexity Theory of Real Functions, Birkhäuser, Boston, 1991]; and decidability ignoring boundaries [d.i.b.; W.C. Myrvold, The decision problem for entanglement, in: R.S. (...) Cohen et al. (Eds.), Potentiality, Entanglement, and Passion-at-a-Distance: Quantum Mechanical Studies fo Abner Shimony, Vol. 2, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Great Britain, 1997, pp. 177–190]. Unlike some others in the literature, these notions apply not only to certain nice sets, but to general sets in Rn and other appropriate spaces. We consider some motivations for these concepts and the logical relations between them. It has been argued that d.m.z. is especially appropriate for physical applications, and on Rn with the standard measure, it is strictly stronger than r.a. [M.W. Parker, Undecidability in Rn: Riddled basins, the KAM tori, and the stability of the solar system, Phil. Sci. 70(2) (2003) 359–382]. Here we show that this is the only implication that holds among our three decidabilities in that setting. Under arbitrary measures, even this implication fails. Yet for intervals of non-zero length, and more generally, convex sets of non-zero measure, the three concepts are equivalent. (shrink)
For many decades, access to human biological samples, such as cells, tissues, organs, blood, and sub-cellular materials such as DNA, for use in biomedical research, has been central in understanding the nature and transmission of diseases across the globe. However, the limitations of current ethical and regulatory frameworks in sub-Saharan Africa to govern the collection, export, storage and reuse of these samples have resulted in inconsistencies in practice and a number of ethical concerns for sample donors, researchers and research ethics (...) committees. This paper examines stakeholders’ perspectives of and responses to the ethical issues arising from these research practices. (shrink)
Should those who work on ethics welcome or resist moves to open access publishing? This paper analyses arguments in favour and against the increasing requirement for open access publishing and considers their implications for bioethics research. In the context of biomedical science, major funders are increasingly mandating open access as a condition of funding and such moves are also common in other disciplines. Whilst there has been some debate about the implications of open-access for the social sciences and humanities, there (...) has been little if any discussion about the implications of open access for ethics. This is surprising given both the central role of public reason and critique in ethics and the fact that many of the arguments made for and against open access have been couched in moral terms. In what follows I argue that those who work in ethics have a strong interest in supporting moves towards more open publishing approaches which have the potential both to inform and promote richer and more diverse forms of public deliberation and to be enriched by them. The importance of public deliberation in practical and applied ethics suggests that ethicists have a particular interest in the promotion of diverse and experimental forms of publication and debate and in supporting new, more creative and more participatory approaches to publication. (shrink)
Previous research has consistently highlighted the importance of stakeholder engagement in identifying and developing solutions to ethical challenges in genomic research, especially in Africa where such research is relatively new. In this paper, we examine what constitutes good ethical practice in research, from the perspectives of genomic research participants in Uganda. Our study was part of a multi-site qualitative study exploring these issues in Uganda, Ghana and Zambia. We purposively sampled various stakeholders including genomic research participants, researchers, research ethics committee (...) members, policy makers and community members. This paper presents the findings from in-depth interviews with 27 people with diabetes who had participated in a diabetes genomic study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. Manual thematic content analysis was conducted using a framework approach. Findings indicate three key requirements that research participants see as vital for genomic research to be more responsive to research participants’ needs and contextual realities: de-emphasising the role of experts and institutions in the consenting process, clarity about the timing and nature of feedback both of findings relevant to the health of individuals and about the broad progress of the study, and more effective support for research participants during and after the study. (shrink)
The turn to empirical ethics answers two calls. The first is for a richer account of morality than that afforded by bioethical principlism, which is cast as excessively abstract and thin on the facts. The second is for the facts in question to be those of human experience and not some other, unworldly realm. Empirical ethics therefore promises a richer naturalistic ethics, but in fulfilling the second call it often fails to heed the metaethical requirements related to the first. Empirical (...) ethics risks losing the normative edge which necessarily characterizes the ethical, by failing to account for the nature and the logic of moral norms. I sketch a naturalistic theory, teleological expressivism (TE), which negotiates the naturalistic fallacy by providing a more satisfactory means of taking into account facts and research data with ethical implications. The examples of informed consent and the euthanasia debate are used to illustrate the superiority of this approach, and the problems consequent on including the facts in the wrong kind of way. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Previous research has consistently highlighted the importance of stakeholder engagement in identifying and developing solutions to ethical challenges in genomic research, especially in Africa where such research is relatively new. In this paper, we examine what constitutes good ethical practice in research, from the perspectives of genomic research participants in Uganda. Our study was part of a multi-site qualitative study exploring these issues in Uganda, Ghana and Zambia. We purposively sampled various stakeholders including genomic research participants, researchers, research ethics (...) committee members, policy makers and community members. This paper presents the findings from in-depth interviews with 27 people with diabetes who had participated in a diabetes genomic study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews. Manual thematic content analysis was conducted using a framework approach. Findings indicate three key requirements that research participants see as vital for genomic research to be more responsive to research participants’ needs and contextual realities: de-emphasising the role of experts and institutions in the consenting process, clarity about the timing and nature of feedback both of findings relevant to the health of individuals and about the broad progress of the study, and more effective support for research participants during and after the study. (shrink)
Benefit sharing in health research has been the focus of international debates for many years, particularly in developing countries. Whilst increasing attention is being given to frameworks that can guide researchers to determine levels of benefits to participants, there is little empirical research from developing countries on the practical application of these frameworks, including in situations of extreme poverty and vulnerability. In addition, the voices of those who often negotiate and face issues related to benefits in practice - frontline researchers (...) and fieldworkers - are rarely included in these debates. Against this background, this paper reports on experiences of negotiating research participation and benefits as described by fieldworkers, research participants and researchers in two community based studies. (shrink)
Community Engagement (CE) has been presented by bio-ethicists and scientists as a straightforward and unequivocal good which can minimize the risks of exploitation and ensure a fair distribution of research benefits in developing countries. By means of ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in Kenya between 2007 and 2009 we explored how CE is understood and enacted in paediatric vaccine trials conducted by the Kenyan Medical Research Institute and the US Centers for Disease Control (KEMRI/CDC). In this paper we focus on the role (...) of paid volunteers who act as an interface between villagers KEMRI/CDC. Village Reporters’ (VRs) position of being both with the community and with KEMRI/CDC is advantageous for the conduct of trials. However it is also problematic in terms of exercising trust, balancing allegiances and representing community views. VRs role is shaped by ambiguities related to their employment status and their dual accountability to researchers and their villages. VRs are understandably careful to stress their commitment to self-less community service since it augments their respectability at community level and opens up opportunities for financial gain and self-development. Simultaneously VRs association with KEMRI/CDC and proximity to trial participants requires them to negotiate implicit and explicit expectations for material and medical assistance in a cultural setting in which much importance is placed on sharing and mutuality. To ensure continuity of productive interactions between VRs, and similar community intermediaries, and researchers, open discussion is needed about the problematic aspects of relational ethics, issues concerning undue influence, power relations and negotiating expectations. (shrink)
SummaryThis article documents understandings and responses to mass drug administration for the treatment and prevention of lymphatic filariasis among adults and children in northern coastal Tanzania from 2004 to 2011. Assessment of village-level distribution registers, combined with self-reported drug uptake surveys of adults, participant observation and interviews, revealed that at study sites in Pangani and Muheza districts the uptake of drugs was persistently low. The majority of people living at these highly endemic locations either did not receive or actively rejected (...) free treatment. A combination of social, economic and political reasons explain the low uptake of drugs. These include a fear of treatment ; divergence between biomedical and local understandings of lymphatic filariasis; and limited and ineffective communication about the rationale for mass treatment. Other contributory factors are the reliance upon volunteers for distribution within villages and, in some locations, strained relationships between different groups of people within villages as well as between local leaders and government officials. The article also highlights a disjuncture between self-reported uptake of drugs by adults at a village level and the higher uptake of drugs recorded in official reports. The latter informs claims that elimination will be a possibility by 2020. This gives voice to a broader problem: there is considerable pressure for those implementing MDA to report positive results. The very real challenges of making MDA work are pushed to one side – adding to a rhetoric of success at the expense of engaging with local realities. It is vital to address the kind of issues raised in this article if current attempts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in mainland coastal Tanzania are to achieve their goal. (shrink)
The creation of biobanks depends upon people’s willingness to donate their samples for research purposes and to agree to sample storage. Moreover, biobanks are a public good that requires active participation by all interested stakeholders at every stage of development. Therefore, knowing public’s attitudes towards participation in a biobank and biobank management is important and deserves investigation.