BMC Medical Ethics is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in relation to medical ethics, heathcare and bioethics.


The library contains articles of BMC International Health and Human Rights as of vol. 1(2000) to current.

Recent Submissions

  • A Q methodology study on divergent perspectives on CRISPR-Cas9 in the Netherlands

    Mirjam Schuijff; Menno D. T. De Jong; Anne M. Dijkstra (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background CRISPR-Cas9, a technology enabling modification of the human genome, is developing rapidly. There have been calls for public debate to discuss its ethics, societal implications, and governance. So far, however, little is known about public attitudes on CRISPR-Cas9. This study contributes to a better understanding of public perspectives by exploring the various holistic perspectives Dutch citizens have on CRISPR-Cas9. Methods This study used Q methodology to identify different perspectives of Dutch citizens (N = 30) on the use of CRISPR-Cas9. The Q-sort method aims at segmenting audiences based on the structural characteristics of their perspectives. Participants individually ranked 32 statements about CRISPR-Cas9 and discussed their rankings in small groups. By-person factor analysis was performed using PQMethod. Participants’ contributions to the discussions were used to further make sense of the audience segments identified. Results Five perspectives on CRISPR-Cas9 were identified: (1) pragmatic optimism (2) concerned scepticism; (3) normative optimism; (4) enthusiastic support; and (5) benevolent generalism. Each perspective represents a unique position motivated by different ranking rationales. Sorting rationales included improving health, preventing negative impacts on society, and fear of a slippery slope. Overall, there is broad, but not universal support for medical uses of CRISPR-Cas9. Conclusions Research on CRISPR-Cas9 should prioritise the broadly supported applications of the technology. Research and public debates on CRISPR-Cas9, its uses, its broader implications, and the governance of CRISPR-Cas9 are recommended. A discourse that includes all perspectives can contribute to the embedding of future uses of CRISPR-Cas9 in society. This study shows that Q methodology followed by group discussions enables citizens to contribute meaningfully to discourses about research.
  • Correction to: Regulatory, scientific, and ethical issues arising from institutional activity in one of the 90 Italian Research Ethics Committees

    G. Benfatto; Regulatory Group; Ethics Committee Catania 1 (Group); F. Drago (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via the original article.
  • Recognising values and engaging communities across cultures: towards developing a cultural protocol for researchers

    Rakhshi Memon; Muqaddas Asif; Ameer B. Khoso; Sehrish Tofique; Tayyaba Kiran; Nasim Chaudhry; Nusrat Husain; Sarah J. L. Edwards; Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning (PILL) (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Efforts to build research capacity and capability in low and middle income countries (LMIC) has progressed over the last three decades, yet it confronts many challenges including issues with communicating or even negotiating across different cultures. Implementing global research requires a broader understanding of community engagement and participatory research approaches. There is a considerable amount of guidance available on community engagement in clinical trials, especially for studies for HIV/AIDS, even culturally specific codes for recruiting vulnerable populations such as the San or Maori people. However, the same cannot be said for implementing research in global health. In an effort to build on this work, the Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning and University College London in the UK sought to better understand differences in beliefs, values and norms of local communities in Pakistan. In particular, they have sought to help researchers from high income countries (HIC) understand how their values are perceived and understood by the local indigenous researchers in Pakistan. To achieve this end, a group discussion was organised with indigenous researchers at Pakistan Institute of Living and Learning. The discussion will ultimately help inform the development of a cultural protocol for researchers from HIC engaging with communities in LMIC. This discussion revealed five common themes; (1) religious principles and rules, (2) differing concepts of and moral emphasis on autonomy and privacy, (3) importance of respect and trust; (4) cultural differences (etiquette); (5) custom and tradition (gift giving and hospitality). Based on the above themes, we present a preliminary cultural analysis to raise awareness and to prepare researchers from HIC conducting cross cultural research in Pakistan. This is likely to be particularly relevant in collectivistic cultures where social interconnectedness, family and community is valued above individual autonomy and the self is not considered central to moral thinking. In certain cultures, HIC ideas of individual autonomy, the notion of informed consent may be regarded as a collective family decision. In addition, there may still be acceptance of traditional professional roles such as ‘doctor knows best’, while respect and privacy may have very different meanings.
  • A scoping review of the literature featuring research ethics and research integrity cases

    Anna Catharina Vieira Armond; Bert Gordijn; Jonathan Lewis; MOHAMMAD HOSSEINI; János Kristóf Bodnár; Soren Holm; Péter Kakuk (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background The areas of Research Ethics (RE) and Research Integrity (RI) are rapidly evolving. Cases of research misconduct, other transgressions related to RE and RI, and forms of ethically questionable behaviors have been frequently published. The objective of this scoping review was to collect RE and RI cases, analyze their main characteristics, and discuss how these cases are represented in the scientific literature. Methods The search included cases involving a violation of, or misbehavior, poor judgment, or detrimental research practice in relation to a normative framework. A search was conducted in PubMed, Web of Science, SCOPUS, JSTOR, Ovid, and Science Direct in March 2018, without language or date restriction. Data relating to the articles and the cases were extracted from case descriptions. Results A total of 14,719 records were identified, and 388 items were included in the qualitative synthesis. The papers contained 500 case descriptions. After applying the eligibility criteria, 238 cases were included in the analysis. In the case analysis, fabrication and falsification were the most frequently tagged violations (44.9%). The non-adherence to pertinent laws and regulations, such as lack of informed consent and REC approval, was the second most frequently tagged violation (15.7%), followed by patient safety issues (11.1%) and plagiarism (6.9%). 80.8% of cases were from the Medical and Health Sciences, 11.5% from the Natural Sciences, 4.3% from Social Sciences, 2.1% from Engineering and Technology, and 1.3% from Humanities. Paper retraction was the most prevalent sanction (45.4%), followed by exclusion from funding applications (35.5%). Conclusions Case descriptions found in academic journals are dominated by discussions regarding prominent cases and are mainly published in the news section of journals. Our results show that there is an overrepresentation of biomedical research cases over other scientific fields compared to its proportion in scientific publications. The cases mostly involve fabrication, falsification, and patient safety issues. This finding could have a significant impact on the academic representation of misbehaviors. The predominance of fabrication and falsification cases might diverge the attention of the academic community from relevant but less visible violations, and from recently emerging forms of misbehaviors.
  • Normative framework of informed consent in clinical research in Germany, Poland, and Russia

    Marcin Orzechowski; Katarzyna Woniak; Cristian Timmermann; Florian Steger (BMC, 2021-05-01)
    Abstract Background Biomedical research nowadays is increasingly carried out in multinational and multicenter settings. Due to disparate national regulations on various ethical aspects, such as informed consent, there is the risk of ethical compromises when involving human subjects in research. Although the Declaration of Helsinki is the point of reference for ethical conduct of research on humans, national normative requirements may diverge from its provisions. The aim of this research is to examine requirements on informed consent in biomedical research in Germany, Poland, and Russia to determine how each national regulatory framework relates to the provisions of the Declaration of Helsinki. Methods For this analysis, we conducted a search of the legal databases “Gesetze im Internet” for Germany, “Internetowy System Aktow Prawnych” for Poland, and “ГAPAHT – Garant” for Russia. The search was complemented by a review of secondary literature contained in the databases Google Scholar, PubMed, Polish National Library, and We have identified 21 normative regulations containing provisions on informed consent in clinical research in all three countries. The content of these documents was systematically categorized and analyzed. Results The normative framework in all three countries shows a strong commitment towards the core ethical principles of research envisaged in the Declaration of Helsinki. Nevertheless, provisions on informed consent vary between these three countries. The differences range from the method and language in which information should be provided, through the amount of information required to be disclosed, to the form of documenting consent or withdrawal. In the case of research on vulnerable groups, these differences are particularly visible. Conclusions The identified differences can negatively impact the ethical conduct of international clinical studies. Attention needs to be paid that flexibilities within national regulations are not misused to undermine the protection of research subjects. Achieving global or regional legislative harmonization might prove impossible. Such lack of legal consensus reinforces the significance of the international ethical agreements. Trial registration: Not applicable.
  • Ethical and procedural issues for applying researcher-driven multi-national paediatric clinical trials in and outside the European Union: the challenging experience of the DEEP project

    Viviana Giannuzzi; Mariagrazia Felisi; Donato Bonifazi; Hugo Devlieger; George Papanikolaou; Lamis Ragab; Slaheddine Fattoum; Bianca Tempesta; Giorgio Reggiardo; Adriana Ceci (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background We describe our experience from a multi-national application of a European Union-funded research-driven paediatric trial (DEEP-2, EudraCT 2012-000353-31; NCT01825512). This paper aims to evaluate the impact of the local and national rules on the trial authorisation process in European and non-European countries. National/local provisions and procedures, number of Ethics Committees and Competent Authorities to be addressed, documentation required, special provisions for the paediatric population, timelines for completing the authorisation process and queries received were collected; compliance with the European provisions were evaluated. Descriptive analysis, Wilcoxon Rank-Sum test and General Linear Model analysis were used to determine factors potentially influencing the timelines. The Cluster Analysis procedure was used to identify homogenous groups of cases. Result The authorisation process was completed in 7.7 to 53.8 months in European countries and in 17.1 to 27.1 months in non-European countries. The main factors influencing these timelines were the requests for changes/clarifications in European countries and the different national legislations in non-European countries. Conclusion This work confirms that the procedures and requirements for the clinical trial application of a paediatric trial are different. In the European Union, the timeframes for submission were generally harmonised but longer. In non-European countries, delays were caused by national dispositions but the entire authorisation process resulted faster with less requests from ECs/CAs. The upcoming application of Regulation (EU) 536/2014 is expected to harmonise practices in Europe and possibly outside. Networks on paediatric research acting at international level will be crucial in this effort.
  • Ethics review of big data research: What should stay and what should be reformed?

    Agata Ferretti; Marcello Ienca; Mark Sheehan; Alessandro Blasimme; Edward S. Dove; Bobbie Farsides; Phoebe Friesen; Jeff Kahn; Walter Karlen; Peter Kleist (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background Ethics review is the process of assessing the ethics of research involving humans. The Ethics Review Committee (ERC) is the key oversight mechanism designated to ensure ethics review. Whether or not this governance mechanism is still fit for purpose in the data-driven research context remains a debated issue among research ethics experts. Main text In this article, we seek to address this issue in a twofold manner. First, we review the strengths and weaknesses of ERCs in ensuring ethical oversight. Second, we map these strengths and weaknesses onto specific challenges raised by big data research. We distinguish two categories of potential weakness. The first category concerns persistent weaknesses, i.e., those which are not specific to big data research, but may be exacerbated by it. The second category concerns novel weaknesses, i.e., those which are created by and inherent to big data projects. Within this second category, we further distinguish between purview weaknesses related to the ERC’s scope (e.g., how big data projects may evade ERC review) and functional weaknesses, related to the ERC’s way of operating. Based on this analysis, we propose reforms aimed at improving the oversight capacity of ERCs in the era of big data science. Conclusions We believe the oversight mechanism could benefit from these reforms because they will help to overcome data-intensive research challenges and consequently benefit research at large.
  • Trust and professionalism in science: medical codes as a model for scientific negligence?

    Hugh Desmond; Kris Dierickx (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background Professional communities such as the medical community are acutely concerned with negligence: the category of misconduct where a professional does not live up to the standards expected of a professional of similar qualifications. Since science is currently strengthening its structures of self-regulation in parallel to the professions, this raises the question to what extent the scientific community is concerned with negligence, and if not, whether it should be. By means of comparative analysis of medical and scientific codes of conduct, we aim to highlight the role (or lack thereof) of negligence provisions in codes of conduct for scientists, and to discuss the normative consequences for future codes of conduct. Methods We collected scientific and medical codes of conduct in a selection of OECD countries, and submitted each code of conduct to comparative textual analysis. Results Negligence is invariably listed as an infraction of the norms of integrity in medical codes of conduct, but only rarely so in the scientific codes. When the latter list negligence, they typically do not provide any detail on the meaning of ‘negligence’. Discussion Unlike codes of conduct for professionals, current codes of conduct for scientists are largely silent on the issue of negligence, or explicitly exclude negligence as a type of misconduct. In the few cases where negligence is stipulated to constitute misconduct, no responsibilities are identified that would help prevent negligence. While we caution against unreasonable negligence provisions as well as disproportionate sanctioning systems, we do argue that negligence provisions are crucial for justified trust in the scientific community, and hence that there is a very strong rationale for including negligence provisions in codes of conduct.
  • Unapproved clinical trials in Russia: exception or norm?

    Petr Talantov; Ravil Niyazov; Galina Viryasova; Margarita Dranitsyna; Ilya Yasny (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background In modern Russia, any clinical investigation of a pharmaceutical for use in humans is subject to prior evaluation and approval by the Ministry of Health and its Central Ethics Committee. Despite this, some researchers and trial sponsors fail to comply, this is particularly true in case of the studies initiated by domestic sponsors or sponsor-investigators and published in Russian language medical journals. This exploratory research aims to discover whether it is a sporadic non-compliance with regulations or a common practice. Methods We searched the Russian language database eLIBRARY for the phrase ‘results of a randomised trial’. We selected publications reporting clinical trials and conducted in Russia. For each of the selected studies, we searched the state register of the approved clinical trials. We assessed whether (1) the investigational medicinal product was approved for marketing in Russia; (2) the therapeutic indications, posology, and administration method in the clinical trial were consistent with the approved labelling; (3) the issue of the journal included an advertisement of the medicinal product in question; and (4) the full description of the methodology corroborated that the clinical trial was randomised, as was stated in the title or abstract. Results Of the 26 selected articles, 22 reported the results of unauthorised clinical trials. Three of those trials were conducted in children. Twenty-one studies reported on data from unauthorised trials for investigational products approved for marketing in Russia. However, in nine cases, the therapeutic indications, posology, or administration method did not match the conditions indicated in the labelling. Moreover, in one case, the unauthorised trial included a drug therapy intervention where the active substance was not approved for use in any medicinal product marketed in Russia. In 14 of the 26 articles, the issue of the journal or the article itself contained an advertisement for the same medicinal product or, in one case, its manufacturer. All publications accompanied by advertisements claimed that the medicinal product in question was efficacious. Conclusions A substantial fraction of the clinical trials initiated by domestic sponsors and reported in Russian medical journals failed to obtain the mandatory prior evaluation and approval from the regulator. This can affect the rights and well-being of the study participants and the scientific validity of the studies.
  • Inter-physician variability in strategies linked to treatment limitations after severe traumatic brain injury; proactivity or wait-and-see

    Annette Robertsen; Eirik Helseth; Reidun Førde (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background Prognostic uncertainty is a challenge for physicians in the neuro intensive care field. Questions about whether continued life-sustaining treatment is in a patient’s best interests arise in different phases after a severe traumatic brain injury. In-depth information about how physicians deal with ethical issues in different contexts is lacking. The purpose of this study was to seek insight into clinicians’ strategies concerning unresolved prognostic uncertainty and their ethical reasoning on the issue of limitation of life-sustaining treatment in patients with minimal or no signs of neurological improvement after severe traumatic brain injury in the later trauma hospital phase. Methods Interviews with 18 physicians working in a neurointensive care unit in a large Norwegian trauma hospital, followed by a qualitative thematic analysis focused on physicians’ strategies related to treatment-limiting decision-making. Results A divide between proactive and wait-and-see strategies emerged. Notwithstanding the hospital’s strong team culture, inter-physician variability with regard to ethical reasoning and preferred strategies was exposed. All the physicians emphasized the importance of team—family interactions. Nevertheless, their strategies differed: (1) The proactive physicians were open to consider limitations of life-sustaining treatment when the prognosis was grim. They initiated ethical discussions, took leadership in clarification and deliberation processes regarding goals and options, saw themselves as guides for the families and believed in the necessity to prepare families for both best-case and worst-case scenarios. (2) The “wait-and-see” physicians preferred open-ended treatment (no limitations). Neurologically injured patients need time to uncover their true recovery potential, they argued. They often avoided talking to the family about dying or other worst-case scenarios during this phase. Conclusions Depending on the individual physician in charge, ethical issues may rest unresolved or not addressed in the later trauma hospital phase. Nevertheless, team collaboration serves to mitigate inter-physician variability. There are problems and pitfalls to be aware of related to both proactive and wait-and-see approaches. The timing of best-interest discussions and treatment-limiting decisions remain challenging after severe traumatic brain injury. Routines for timely and open discussions with families about the range of ethically reasonable options need to be strengthened.
  • Identifying disincentives to ethics consultation requests among physicians, advance practice providers, and nurses: a quality improvement all staff survey at a tertiary academic medical center

    Lynette Cederquist; Jamie Nicole LaBuzetta; Edward Cachay; Lawrence Friedman; Cassia Yi; Laura Dibsie; Yiran Zhang (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background Ethics consult services are well established, but often remain underutilized. Our aim was to identify the barriers and perceptions of the Ethics consult service for physicians, advance practice providers (APPs), and nurses at our urban academic medical center which might contribute to underutilization. Methods This was a cross-sectional single-health system, anonymous written online survey, which was developed by the UCSD Health Clinical Ethics Committee and distributed by Survey Monkey. We compare responses between physicians, APPs, and nurses using standard parametric and non-parametric statistical methods. Satisfaction with ethics consult and likelihood of calling Ethics service again were assessed using a 0–100 scale using a 5-likert response structured (0 being “not helpful at all” to 100 being “extremely helpful”) and results presented using box plots and interquartile ranges (IQR). Results From January to July 2019, approximately 3800 surveys were sent to all physicians, APPs and nurses with a return rate of 5.5—10%. Although the majority of respondents had encountered an ethical dilemma (85–92.1%) only approximately half had ever requested an Ethics consult. The primary reason for physicians never having requested a consult was that they never felt the need for help (41%). For APPs the primary reasons were not knowing an Ethics consult service was available (33.3%) or not knowing how to contact Ethics (27.8%). For nurses, it was not knowing how to contact the Ethics consult service (30.8%) or not feeling the need for help (26.2%). The median satisfaction score (IQR) for Ethics consult services rated on a 0–100 scale, from physicians was 76 (29), for AAPs 89 (49), and nurses 70 (40) (p = 0.62). The median (IQR) of likelihood of consulting Ethics in the future also on a 0–100 scale was 71 (47) for physicians, 69 (45) for APPs, and 61 (45) for nurses (p = 0.79). APP’s and nurses were significantly more likely than physicians to believe that the team did not act on the Ethics consult’s recommendations. Conclusions Based on the results presented, we were able to identify actionable steps to better engage healthcare providers—and in particular APPs and nurses—and scale up institutional educational efforts to increase awareness of the role of the Ethics consult service at our institution. Actionable steps included implementing a system of ongoing feedback that is critical for the sustainability of the Ethics service role. We hope this project can serve as a blueprint for other hospital-based Ethics consult services to improve the quality of their programs.
  • Under consent: participation of people with HIV in an Ebola vaccine trial in Canada

    Pierre-Marie David; Benjamin Mathiot; Oumy Thiongane; Janice E. Graham (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background Little is known about volunteers from Northern research settings who participate in vaccine trials of highly infectious diseases with no approved treatments. This article explores the motivations of HIV immunocompromised study participants in Canada who volunteered in a Phase II clinical trial that evaluated the safety and immunogenicity of an Ebola vaccine candidate. Methods Observation at the clinical study site and semi-structured interviews employing situational and discursive analysis were conducted with clinical trial participants and staff over one year. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using critical qualitative interpretivist thematic analytical techniques. Patterns were identified, clustered and sorted to generate distinct and comprehensive themes. We then reassembled events and contexts from the study participants’ stories to develop two ideal portraits based on "composite characters" based on study participants features. These provide ethnographically rich details of participants’ meaningful social worlds while protecting individual identities. Results Ten of the 14 clinical trial participants, and 3 study staff were interviewed. Participant demographics and socio-economic profiles expressed limited contextual diversity. Half were men who have sex with men, half were former injection drug users experiencing homelessness, one was female, none were racialized minorities and there were no people from HIV endemic countries. Fully 90% had previous involvement in other clinical studies. Their stories point to particular socio-economic situations that motivated their participation as clinical labor through trial participation. Conclusions Our findings support Fisher’s argument of “structural coercion” in clinical trial recruitment of vulnerable individuals experiencing precarious living conditions. Clinical trials should provide more detail of the structural socio-economic conditions and healthcare needs which lie “under consent” of study participants. Going well beyond an overly convenient narrative of altruism, ethical deliberation frameworks need to sufficiently address the structural conditions of clinical trials. We offer concrete possibilities for this and acknowledge that further research and clinical data should be made available underlying study participant contexts with regards to recruitment and participation in resource poor settings, in both the South and the North.
  • Prioritising ‘already-scarce’ intensive care unit resources in the midst of COVID-19: a call for regional triage committees in South Africa

    Reshania Naidoo; Kantharuben Naidoo (BMC, 2021-03-01)
    Abstract Background The worsening COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa poses multiple challenges for clinical decision making in the context of already-scarce ICU resources. Data from national government and the last published national audit of ICU resources indicate gross shortages. While the Critical Care Society of Southern Africa (CCSSA) guidelines provide a comprehensive guideline for triage in the face of overwhelmed ICU resources, such decisions present massive ethical and moral dilemmas for triage teams. It is therefore important for the health system to provide clinicians and critical care facilities with as much support and resources as possible in the face of impending pandemic demand. Following a discussion of the ethical considerations and potential challenges in applying the CCSSA guidelines, the authors propose a framework for regional triage committees adapted to the South African context. Discussion Beyond the national CCSSA guidelines, the clinician has many additional ethical and clinical considerations. No single ethical approach to decision-making is sufficient, instead one which considers multiple contextual factors is necessary. Scores such as the Clinical Frailty Score and Sequential Organ Failure Assessment are of limited use in patients with COVID-19. Furthermore, the clinician is fully justified in withdrawing ICU care based on medical futility decisions and to reallocate this resource to a patient with a better prognosis. However, these decisions bear heavy emotional and moral burden compounded by the volume of clinical work and a fear of litigation. Conclusion We propose the formation of Provincial multi-disciplinary Critical Care Triage Committees to alleviate the emotional, moral and legal burden on individual ICU teams and co-ordinate inter-facility collaboration using an adapted framework. The committee would provide an impartial, broader and ethically-sound viewpoint which has time to consider broader contextual factors such as adjusting rationing criteria according to different levels of pandemic demand and the latest clinical evidence. Their functioning will be strengthened by direct feedback to national level and accountability to a national monitoring committee. The potential applications of these committees are far-reaching and have the potential to enable a more effective COVID-19 health systems response in South Africa.
  • Pharmacy stakeholder reports on ethical and logistical considerations in anti-opioid vaccine development

    Vincent Wartenweiler; Grace Chung; Amy Stewart; Cody Wenthur (BMC, 2021-03-01)
    Abstract Background As opioid use disorder (OUD) incidence and its associated deaths continue to persist at elevated rates, the development of novel treatment modalities is warranted. Recent strides in this therapeutic area include novel anti-opioid vaccine approaches. This work compares logistical and ethical considerations surrounding currently available interventions for opioid use disorder with an anti-opioid vaccine approach. Methods The opinions of student pharmacists and practicing pharmacists assessing knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes toward current and future OUD management strategies were characterized using a staged, multi-modal research approach incorporating a focus group, pilot survey development and refinement, and final survey deployment. Survey responses were assessed using one- and two-way parametric and non-parametric analyses where appropriate, and multi-dimensional matrix profiles were compared using z-tests following an exhaustive combinatorial sum of differences calculation between items within each compared matrix. Results Focus group content analysis revealed a high level of agreeableness among participants regarding anti-opioid vaccine technology and a sense of shared ownership regarding solutions to the opioid epidemic at large. Pilot survey results demonstrated subject ability to consider both pragmatic and ethical considerations related to current therapeutics and novel interventions in a single instrument, with high endurance amongst engaged subjects. Access inequality was the most concerning ethical consideration identified for anti-opioid vaccines. Support for anti-opioid vaccine implementation across various clinical scenarios was strongest for voluntary use amongst individuals in recovery, and lowest for mandatory use in at-risk individuals. Conclusions Ethical and logistical concerns surrounding anti-opioid vaccines were largely similar to those for current OUD therapeutics overall. Anti-opioid vaccines were endorsed as helpful potential additions to current OUD therapeutic approaches, particularly for voluntary use in the later stages of clinical progression.
  • The full spectrum of ethical issues in dementia research: findings of a systematic qualitative review

    Tim G. Götzelmann; Daniel Strech; Hannes Kahrass (BMC, 2021-03-01)
    Abstract Background When including participants with dementia in research, various ethical issues arise. At present, there are only a few existing dementia-specific research guidelines (Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use in Clinical investigation of medicines for the treatment Alzheimer’s disease (Internet). ; Food and Drug Administration, Early Alzheimer’s Disease: Developing Drugs for Treatment Guidance for Industry [Internet]. ), necessitating a more systematic and comprehensive approach to this topic to help researchers and stakeholders address dementia-specific ethical issues in research. A systematic literature review provides information on the ethical issues in dementia-related research and might therefore serve as a basis to improve the ethical conduct of this research. This systematic review aims to provide a broad and unbiased overview of ethical issues in dementia research by reviewing, analysing, and coding the latest literature on the topic. Methods We conducted a systematic review in PubMed and Google Scholar (publications in English between 2007 and 2020, no restrictions on the type of publication) of literature on research ethics in dementia research. Ethical issues in research were identified by qualitative text analysis and normative analysis. Results The literature review retrieved 110 references that together mentioned 105 ethical issues in dementia research. This set of ethical issues was structured into a matrix based on the eight major principles from a pre-existing framework on biomedical ethics (Emanuel et al. An Ethical Framework for Biomedical Research. in The Oxford textbook of clinical research ethics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008). Consequently, subcategories were created and further categorized into dementia stages and study phases. Conclusions The systematically derived matrix helps raise awareness and understanding of the complex topic of ethical issues in dementia research. The matrix can be used as a basis for researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders when planning, conducting and monitoring research, making decisions on the legal background of the topic, and creating research practice guidelines.
  • Among equity and dignity: an argument-based review of European ethical guidelines under COVID-19

    Marta Perin; Ludovica De Panfilis (BMC, 2021-03-01)
    Abstract Background Under COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations developed guidelines to deal with the ethical aspects of resources allocation. This study describes the results of an argument-based review of ethical guidelines developed at the European level. It aims to increase knowledge and awareness about the moral relevance of the outbreak, especially as regards the balance of equity and dignity in clinical practice and patient’s care. Method According to the argument-based review framework, we started our research from the following two questions: what are the ethical principles adopted by the ethical guidelines produced at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak related to resource allocation? And what are the practical consequences in terms of 'priority' of access, access criteria, management of the decision-making process and patient care? Results Twenty-two ethical guidelines met our inclusion criteria and the results of our analysis are organized into 4 ethical concepts and related arguments: the equity principle and emerging ethical theories; triage criteria; respecting patient’s dignity, and decision making and quality of care. Conclusion Further studies can investigate the practical consequences of the application of the guidelines described, in terms of quality of care and health care professionals’ moral distress.
  • Ethical challenges of the healthcare transition to adult antiretroviral therapy (ART) clinics for adolescents and young people with HIV in Uganda

    Scovia Nalugo Mbalinda; Sabrina Bakeera-Kitaka; Derrick Lusota Amooti; Eleanor Namusoke Magongo; Philippa Musoke; Dan Kabonge Kaye (BMC, 2021-03-01)
    Abstract Background Whereas many adolescents and young people with HIV require the transfer of care from paediatric/adolescent clinics to adult ART clinics, this transition is beset with a multitude of factors that have the potential to hinder or facilitate the process, thereby raising ethical challenges of the transition process. Decisions made regarding therapy, such as when and how to transition to adult HIV care, should consider ethical benefits and risks. Understanding and addressing ethical challenges in the healthcare transition could ensure a smooth and successful transition. The purpose of this study was to analyze the ethical challenges of transitioning HIV care for adolescents into adult HIV clinics. Methods Data presented were derived from 191 adolescents attending nine different health facilities in Uganda, who constituted 18 focus group discussions. In the discussions, facilitators and barriers regarding adolescents transitioning to adult HIV clinics were explored. Guided by the Silences Framework for data interpretation, thematic data analysis was used to analyze the data. The principles of bioethics and the four-boxes ethics framework for clinical care (patient autonomy, medical indications, the context of care, and quality of life) were used to analyze the ethical issues surrounding the transition from adolescent to adult HIV care. Results The key emerging ethical issues were: reduced patient autonomy; increased risk of harm from stigma and loss of privacy and confidentiality; unfriendly adult clinics induce disengagement and disruption of the care continuum; patient preference to transition as a cohort, and contextual factors are critical to a successful transition. Conclusion The priority outcomes of the healthcare transition for adolescents should address ethical challenges of the healthcare transition such as loss of autonomy, stigma, loss of privacy, and discontinuity of care to ensure retention in HIV care, facilitate long-term self-care, offer ongoing all-inclusive healthcare, promote adolescent health and wellbeing and foster trust in the healthcare system. Identifying and addressing the ethical issues related to what hinders or facilitates successful transitions with targeted interventions for the transition process may ensure adolescents and young people with HIV infection remain healthy across the healthcare transition.
  • Health workers’ perspectives on informed consent for caesarean section in Southern Malawi

    Wouter Bakker; Siem Zethof; Felix Nansongole; Kelvin Kilowe; Jos van Roosmalen; Thomas van den Akker (BMC, 2021-03-01)
    Abstract Objective Informed consent is a prerequisite for caesarean section, the commonest surgical procedure in low- and middle-income settings, but not always acquired to an appropriate extent. Exploring perceptions of health care workers may aid in improving clinical practice around informed consent. We aim to explore health workers’ beliefs and experiences related to principles and practice of informed consent. Methods Qualitative study conducted between January and June 2018 in a rural 150-bed mission hospital in Southern Malawi. Clinical observations, semi-structured interviews and a focus group discussion were used to collect data. Participants were 22 clincal officers, nurse-midwives and midwifery students involved in maternity care. Data were analysed to identify themes and construct an analytical framework. Results Definition and purpose of informed consent revolved around providing information, respecting women’s autonomy and achieving legal protection. Due to fear of blame and litigation, health workers preferred written consent. Written consent requires active participation by the consenting individual and was perceived to transfer liability to that person. A woman’s refusal to provide written informed consent may pose a dilemma for the health worker between doing good and respecting autonomy. To prevent such refusal, health workers said to only partially disclose surgical risks in order to minimize women's anxiety. Commonly perceived barriers to obtain a fully informed consent were labour pains, language barriers, women’s lack of education and their dependency on others to make decisions. Conclusions Health workers are familiar with the principles around informed consent and aware of its advantages, but fear of blame and litigation, partial disclosure of risks and barriers to communication hamper the process of obtaining informed consent. Findings can be used to develop interventions to improve the informed consent process.
  • Do-not-attempt-resuscitation orders: attitudes, perceptions and practices of Swedish physicians and nurses

    Anders Bremer; Kristofer Årestedt; Ewa Rosengren; Jörg Carlsson; Samuel Sandboge (BMC, 2021-03-01)
    Abstract Background The values and attitudes of healthcare professionals influence their handling of ‘do-not-attempt-resuscitation’ (DNAR) orders. The aim of this study was a) to describe attitudes, perceptions and practices among Swedish physicians and nurses towards discussing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and DNAR orders with patients and their relatives, and b) to investigate if the physicians and nurses were familiar with the national ethical guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Methods This was a retrospective observational study based on a questionnaire and was conducted at 19 wards in two regional hospitals and one county hospital. Results 210 physicians and 312 nurses (n = 522) responded to the questionnaire. Every third (35%) professional had read the guidelines with a lower proportion of physicians (29%) compared to nurses (38%). Around 40% of patients had the opportunity or ability to participate in the DNAR discussion. The DNAR decision was discussed with 38% of patients and the prognosis with 46%. Of the patients who were considered to have the ability to participate in the discussion, 79% did so. The majority (81%) of physicians and nurses believed that patients should always be asked about their preferences before a DNAR decision was made. Conclusions Swedish healthcare professionals take a patient’s autonomy into account regarding DNAR decisions. Nevertheless, as 50% of patients were considered unable to participate in the DNAR discussion, questions remain about the timing of patient participation and whether more discussions could have been conducted earlier. Given the uncertainty about timing, the majority of patients deemed competent participated in DNAR discussions.
  • Regulatory, scientific, and ethical issues arising from institutional activity in one of the 90 Italian Research Ethics Committees

    G. Benfatto; Regulatory Group; Ethics Committee Catania 1 (Group); F. Drago (BMC, 2021-04-01)
    Abstract Background This paper highlights the issues that one of the 90 Italian Research Ethics Committees (RECs) might encounter during the approval phase of a clinical trial to identify corrective and preventive actions for promoting a more efficient review process and ensuring review quality. Publications on the subject from Italy and the rest of Europe are limited; encouraging constructive debate can improve RECs’ service to the subject of the clinical trial. Methods We retrospectively reviewed a cohort of 822 clinical trial protocols, initially reviewed by REC, from June 2014 to December 2018. Data collected for each protocol were type of trial, sample size, use of placebo, number and kind of revisions requested by the REC before approval, and time taken for approval. Data for each protocol were collected by a trained clinical research assistant using the REC’s files and electronic archives. Results Almost 45% of the reviewed studies (374/822) required clarifications, significant changes to the documentation, or minor changes before final approval. Conclusions Preventive measures are needed to reduce the number of requested corrections and thus also the time required for approval, while maintaining review quality. All critical points and proposals presented in this paper require harmonization through updates to European regulations, as regulatory harmonization produces better compliance with rules and reduces the number of changes required before the trials’ final approval. Such updates include the development of standardized formats for informed consent, the verification of any evidence in favor of using off-label treatments over placebo as comparators, using multidisciplinary staff in clinical trials with children and adolescents, improving the legal definition of RECs to assign responsibilities and ensure independence, and providing guidance for RECs to engage clinical research assistants in internal audits.

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