BackgroundIncrease 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 resultsWe 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.ConclusionGlobal 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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
Next SectionBackground There is an established link between depression and interest in hastened death in patients who are seriously ill. Concern exists over the extent of depression in patients who actively request euthanasia/physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and those who have their requests granted. Objectives To estimate the prevalence of depression in refused and granted requests for euthanasia/PAS and discuss these findings. Methods A systematic review was performed in MEDLINE and PsycINFO in July 2010, identifying studies reporting rates of depression in requests (...) for and cases of euthanasia/PAS. One author critically appraised the strength of the data using published criteria. Results 21 studies were included covering four countries. There was considerable heterogeneity in methods of assessing depression and selecting patients. In the highest quality studies, in the Netherlands and Oregon, 8–47% of patients requesting euthanasia/PAS had depressive symptoms and 2–17% of completed euthanasia/PAS cases had depressive symptoms. In the Netherlands, depression was significantly higher in refused than granted requests, and there was no significant difference in the rate of depression between euthanasia cases and similar patients who had not made a request for euthanasia. Conclusion It is unclear whether depression increases the probability of making a request for euthanasia/PAS, but in the Netherlands most requests in depressed patients are rejected, leaving a depression rate in cases that is similar to the surrounding population. Less evidence is available elsewhere, but some level of depression has been identified in patients undergoing euthanasia/PAS in all the countries studied. Whether the presence of depression is ever compatible with an ethical decision on euthanasia/PAS is discussed. (shrink)
Biomedical research is an increasingly multidisciplinary activity bringing together a range of different academic fields and forms of expertise to investigate diseases that are increasingly understood to be complex and multifactorial. Recently the discipline of ethics has been starting to find a place in large-scale biomedical collaborations. In this article we draw from our experience of working with the Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network and other research projects to reflect upon the integration of ethics into biomedical research. We examine the way (...) in which ethics input may be valuable to research, the forms it tends to take, and also the problems and limitations of such collaborations. (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)
Failings in patient care and quality in NHS Trusts have become a recurring theme over the past few years. In this paper, we examine the Care Quality Commission’s Guidance about Compliance : Essential Standards of Quality and Safety and ask how NHS Trusts might be better supported in fulfilling the regulations specified therein. We argue that clinical ethics committees (CECs) have a role to play in this regard. We make this argument by attending to the many ethical elements that are (...) highlighted in the Commission’s Regulations and by providing practical examples of how CECs can (and in some case already do) provide ethics support to health professionals and trusts. Although CECs have been traditionally associated with case consultation, i.e., discrete problems caused by individual circumstances, in the previous 10 years the literature suggests that clinical ethics services have become more integrated into the life of the health care organization and are increasing construed as proactive agents of systematic change. We provide evidence from a recent survey of UK clinical ethics services that this trend is present in the UK. (shrink)
BackgroundThe concept of benefit sharing to enhance the social value of global health research in resource poor settings is now a key strategy for addressing moral issues of relevance to individuals, communities and host countries in resource poor settings when they participate in international collaborative health research.The influence of benefit sharing framework on the conduct of collaborative health research is for instance evidenced by the number of publications and research ethics guidelines that require prior engagement between stakeholders to determine the (...) social value of research to the host communities. While such efforts as the production of international guidance on how to promote the social value of research through such strategies as benefit sharing have been made, the extent to which these ideas and guidelines have been absorbed by those engaged in global health research especially in resource poor settings remains unclear. We examine this awareness among stakeholders involved in health related research in Kenya.MethodsWe 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.ResultsOur study suggests that although people have a sense of justice and the moral aspects of research, this was not articulated in terms used in the literature and the guidelines on the ethics of global health research.ConclusionThis study demonstrates that while in theory several efforts can be made to address the moral issues of concern to research participants and their communities in resource poor settings, quick fixes such as benefit sharing are not going to be straightforward. We suggest a need to pay closer attention to the processes through which ethical principles are enacted in practice and distil lessons on how best to involve individuals and communities in promoting ethical conduct of global health research in resource poor settings. (shrink)
Confidentiality in genetic testing posesimportant ethical challenges to the currentprimacy of respect for autonomy and patientchoice in health care. It also presents achallenge to approaches to decision-makingemphasising the ethical importance of theconsequences of health care decisions. In thispaper a case is described in which respect forconfidentiality calls both for disclosure andnon-disclosure, and in which respect forpatient autonomy and the demand to avoidcausing harm each appear to call both fortesting without consent, and testing only withconsent. This creates problems not only forclinicians, (...) families and patients, but also forthose who propose clinical bioethics as a toolfor the resolution of such dilemmas.In this paper I propose some practical waysin which ethical issues in clinical geneticsand elsewhere, might be addressed. Inparticular I call for a closer relationshipbetween ethics and communication in health caredecision-making and describe an approach to theethics consultation that places particularemphasis on the value of interpersonaldeliberation in the search for moralunderstanding. I reach these conclusionsthrough an analysis of the concept of `moraldevelopment'' in which I argue that theachievement of moral understanding is anecessarily intersubjective project elaboratedby moral persons. (shrink)
The European Biomedical Ethics Practitioner Education Project (EBEPE), funded by the BIOMED programme of the European Commission, is a five-nation partnership to produce open learning materials for healthcare ethics education. Papers and case studies from a series of twelve conferences throughout the European Union, reflecting the âburning issuesâ in the participants' healthcare systems, have been collected by a team based at Imperial College, London, where they are now being edited into a series of seven activity-based workbooks for individual or group (...) study. These draft workbooks are now being read by a network of critical readers across Europe, whose comments will be incorporated into the final versions of the workbooks. The result will be the first European-wide and Europe-centred resource for teaching students, practitioners, and members of ethics committees. Topics covered include: â¢ Resource allocation and rationing â¢ The rights of children and young people â¢ Long-term care of the elderly â¢ Mental health and mental illness â¢ Autonomy and patient choice â¢ Decisions at the end of life â¢ A study guide to using the workbooks The collaborative nature of the project has highlighted differentiated national approaches in medical ethics. Against the British and Dutch rights-orientated approach have emerged two other alternative models: the Nordic preference for administrative resolution of entitlement disputes, and the southern European emphasis on deontological codes. A genuinely European reconstruction of autonomy and rights, using hermeneutic, feminist and narrative approaches to counterbalance individualistic models, is emerging across the workbooks. The programme has also uncovered national differences in how ethics should be taught, with the workbooks' style being an experiential approach. Thus the EBEPE project is developing new models in both substantive and pedagogic senses, about both what should be taught and how it should be presented. (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)
The UK Genethics Club was established in November 2001 in order to provide a national forum of ethics support for the profession of clinical genetics in the UK. The forum brings together health professionals, medical ethicists and lawyers and support is provided through detailed discussion of cases and sharing of good practice. Clinical genetics professionals had previously voiced concerns about making extremely difficult ethical decisions, with profound implications, in something of a vacuum. Professionals saw a lack of guidance in the (...) area and lack of time for discussion of difficult cases as reasons for this. This paper describes the origins of the group and gives (anonymized) examples of some of the types of issues discussed. (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)
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.
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)
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)
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.
The practice of making datasets publicly available for use by the wider scientific community has become firmly integrated in genomic science. One significant gap in literature around data sharing concerns how it impacts on scientists’ ability to preserve values and ethical standards that form an essential component of scientific collaborations. We conducted a qualitative sociological study examining the potential for harm to ethnic groups, and implications of such ethical concerns for data sharing. We focused our empirical work on the MalariaGEN (...) Consortium, one of the first international collaborative genomics research projects in Africa. (shrink)
This volume explores the focus of interest in community and the emerging theoretical opposition between communitarianism and liberalism, including the practical, theoretical and ethical issues that relate to community in the healthcare professions.
The concept of community is increasingly the focus of political argument in Britain, the United States and elsewhere around the world. The sense people have of belonging to coummunities provides a powerful motivation which continues to affecct the political and social face of the world. Recently, debate about the relationship between individuals and their communities has become central to the making of both, American and European social policy. In the United Kingdom this is especially apparent in the area of health (...) care, where ideas of community have informed recent legislation concerning community care, community health trusts and the Children Act among others. This volume explores the focus of interest in community and the emerging theoretical oppostion between communitarianism and liberalism, as well as the practical, theoretical and ethical issues relating to community in the health care professions, including a discussion of the health service as Civil Association, an analysis of liberal and communitarian views on the allocaiton of health care resources, an exploration of the use of genetic information and an examination of health care decision making for incapacitated elderly patients. (shrink)