Research in global health emergencies: ethical issues


Published 28/01/2020

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  1. To consider, in the light of recent developments, how research may ethically be conducted in global health emergencies, and how it may most appropriately be integrated into the wider response to such emergencies.
  2. To consider, in particular:
    1. the implications of the recognition that undertaking research can be an integral and necessary part of response to a global health emergency;
    2. the role of affected populations in shaping the role of research in emergency response, including recognising the potential for diverse views within those populations;
    3. the circumstances in which research activities during an emergency may offer the prospect of direct health benefit to participants, and the implications of this for ethical conduct of the research;
    4. whether there are circumstances in which the standard ethical requirements for the scrutiny and conduct of research should differ in emergencies; and if so, in what way, and with what justification;
    5. the ethical implications of the criteria for declaring a situation to constitute a ‘global health emergency’, and the implications for action before and after the period of the declared emergency if different ethical requirements are held to apply during emergencies; and
    6. the responsibilities of multiple stakeholders including research funders, the pharmaceutical industry and their insurers, non-profit organisations, intergovernmental bodies, and governments the diverse nature of what might constitute a global health emergency, including disease outbreaks, natural or industrial disasters, conflict, and widespread drug resistance;
  3. In considering the issues above, to take into account:
    1. the speed of innovation in research and research methods; and
    2. the nature of national obligations to assist those beyond their borders.
  4. To write a report and make recommendations to improve the contribution that ethically conducted research may make to emergency response in the future.