Extending the boundaries of the Declaration of Helsinki: a case study of an unethical experiment in a non-medical setting.
To examine the ethical issues involved in governmental decisions with potential health risks, we review the history of the decision to raise the interurban speed limit in Israel in light of its impact on road death and injury. In 1993, the Israeli Ministry of Transportation initiated an "experiment" to raise the interurban speed limit from 90 to 100 kph. The "experiment" did not include a protocol and did not specify cut-off points for early termination in the case of adverse results. After the raise in the speed limit, the death toll on interurban roads rose as a result of a sudden increase in speeds and case fatality rates. The committee's decision is a case study in unfettered human experimentation and public health risks when the setting is non-medical and lacks a defined ethical framework. The case study states the case for extending Helsinki type safeguards to experimentation in non-medical settings. (+info)
The problem of informed consent in emergency medicine research.
The CRASH Trial (Corticosteroid Randomisation After Significant Head injury), which started in April 1999 hopes to answer the question of whether or not there is any benefit to giving high dose corticosteroids after significant head injuries. To do this patients are randomised to receive either the standard care for head injuries, as defined by the receiving hospital, or standard care plus a 48 hour infusion of corticosteroids. This is to be started within eight hours of injury, preferably as soon as possible. As all eligible patients will have a reduced level of consciousness informed consent has been deemed unnecessary. In this review the issue of consent in human experimentation is presented with a special emphasis on the problems faced in emergency medicine research, and the way these have been tackled. (+info)
Who is my brother's keeper?
Clinical and research practices designed by developed countries are often implemented in host nations of the Third World. In recent years, a number of papers have presented a diversity of arguments to justify these practices which include the defence of research with placebos even though best proven treatments exist; the distribution of drugs unapproved in their country of origin; withholding of existing therapy in order to observe the natural course of infection and disease; redefinition of equipoise to a more bland version, and denial of post-trial benefits to research subjects. These practices have all been prohibited in developed, sponsoring countries, even though they invariably have pockets of poverty where conditions comparable to the Third World prevail. Furthermore, the latest update of the Declaration of Helsinki clearly decries double ethical standards in research protocols. Under these circumstances, it does not seem appropriate that First World scholars should propose and defend research and clinical practices with less stringent ethical standards than those mandatory in their own countries. Recent years have witnessed frequent reports of less stringent ethical standards being applied to both clinical and research medical practices, for the most part in the field of drug trials and drug marketing, initiated by developed countries in poorer nations. Still more unsettling, a number of articles have endorsed the policy of employing ethical norms in these host countries, which would be unacceptable to both the legislations and the moral standards of the sponsor nations. Also, these reformulations often contravene the Declaration of Helsinki or one of its updates. This paper is not so much concerned with the actual practices, which have been subjected to frequent scrutiny and publicly decried when gross misconduct occurred. Rather, my concern relates to the approval and support such practices have found in the literature on bioethics from authors who might be expected to use their energy and scholarship to explore and endorse the universalisability of ethics rather than to develop ad hoc arguments that would allow exceptions and variations from accepted moral standards. To this purpose, issue will be taken with arguments in three fields: medical and pharmaceutical practices, research strategies, and local application of research results. (+info)
Clinical research in developing countries: recent moral arguments.
During the 1990s, bioethicists raised questions about certain clinical trials conducted in developing countries. These inquiries led to revisions in the Declaration of Helsinki and recommendations from the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission. This article raises doubts about the original questions and subsequent recommendations. It is possible that impractical solutions have been proposed for nonexistent ethical problems. (+info)
Ethical issues related to the use of placebo in clinical trials.
Controversy exists regarding the ethics of using placebo control groups in clinical trials when effective treatments exist. The debate was fuelled by the announcement of the fifth revision of the Declaration of Helsinki in 2000. This study reviews the history and scientific background surrounding the controversy and investigates the prevailing attitudes of Hong Kong researchers regarding this issue. The controversy has centred on several issues. The first involves the methodological superiority of placebo-controlled trials in discerning treatment effects. Secondly, it is unclear whether the treatment effects encompass absolute treatment effects (including placebo effects) or are confined to treatment-specific effects (excluding placebo effects). Thirdly, there are concerns that subjects in the placebo group could be exposed to a high risk for developing serious adverse events. Fourthly, it is unclear whether the standard of best available treatment should be local or international. Preliminary research findings suggest that the opinions of Hong Kong researchers are divided on the use of placebo control groups in clinical trials when effective treatment exists. Further research on the topic is therefore warranted, and training and consensus meeting may be necessary to minimise the confusion related to this issue. (+info)
Between universalism and relativism: a conceptual exploration of problems in formulating and applying international biomedical ethical guidelines.
In this paper, the author attempts to explore some of the problems connected with the formulation and application of international biomedical ethical guidelines, with particular reference to Africa. Recent attempts at revising and updating some international medical ethical guidelines have been bedevilled by intractable controversies and wrangling regarding both the content and formulation. From the vantage position of relative familiarity with both African and Western contexts, and the privilege of having been involved in the revision and updating of one of the international ethical guidelines, the author reflects broadly on these issues and attempts prescribing an approach from both the theoretical and practical angles liable to mitigate, if not completely eliminate, some of the problems and difficulties. (+info)
Challenge studies of human volunteers: ethical issues.
There is a long history of medical research that involves intentionally infecting healthy people in order to study diseases and their treatments. Such research-what might be called "human challenge studies"-are an important strand of much current research-for example, in the development of vaccinations. The many international and national guidelines about the proper conduct of medical research do not specifically address human challenge studies. In this paper we review the guidelines on the risk of harm that healthy volunteers may be exposed to in the course of medical research. We examine the ethical arguments that are implicit or explicit in these guidelines. We then ask whether there is reason for limiting such studies on grounds independent of risk of harm. We conclude that the major ethical concern with challenge studies is that of risk of harm and that the fact that a study is a challenge study is not a wrong in itself. (+info)
The standard of care debate: the Declaration of Helsinki versus the international consensus opinion.
The World Medical Association's revised Declaration of Helsinki endorses the view that all trial participants in every country are entitled to the worldwide best standard of care. In this paper the authors show that this requirement has been rejected by every national and international committee that has examined this issue. They argue that the consensus view now holds that it is ethically permissible, in some circumstances, to provide research participants less than the worldwide best care. Finally, the authors show that there is also consensus regarding the broad conditions under which this is acceptable. (+info)