Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Researchers debate calls for increased ethical supervision in clinical practice

Australian medical research is subject to strict ethical guidelines and standards designed to ensure participant safety and the integrity of the research. This supervision is accomplished through ethics committees and the ethics application/approval process.

Recently, through an editorial to the Medical Journal of Australia, researchers from UNSW proposed applying similar processes to clinical practice, pointing to a perceived double standard in ethics requirements in which the “ethical standards required for research are indeed higher than for clinical practice”.
An example they pointed to was the use of interpreters to provide informed consent “Researchers cannot seek informed consent from a non-English speaking patient without an interpreter or appropriately translated documents, but clinicians often obtain consent for surgery from the same individuals without these provisos.”
However, these opinions are at odds with others in the medical community, including Dr Owen Williamson of the SPHPM. “Although I agree that outcomes should be measured in some way after every intervention to ensure safety and efficacy, there is considerable debate as to what would constitute an appropriate outcome measure, given the almost limitless number of interventions and interested stakeholders”
He also called into question the feasibility of the proposal “[The authors] do not comment on how this might be achieved, either the design or implementation, and who should bear the cost.”

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