Research Ethics: Beyond the Guidelines

Developing World Bioethics 1 (1):57-68 (2001)
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There is international recognition of the need for sustainable research ethics committees to provide ethical review of human subjects research in developing countries, but many developing countries do not have such committees . Theoretical and practical uncertainties encountered by an IRB on the Caribbean island of Grenada offer insight into ethical review of research in developing countries. Theoretical uncertainties include questions about whether means of ensuring confidentiality and obtaining informed consent will be effective in local settings, and whether deviations from Western norms are justifiable. International guidelines are helpful in addressing these concerns, but are subject to interpretation. Guidelines are less helpful in practical areas like selecting members or chairs. They do not address what sort of procedures and paperwork will work in a developing country, or IRBs’ relationships to governments that have no mandate for them. Experiences presented here show that IRBs in developing countries can sustainably adhere to international standards. Sustainability requires knowledge, personal commitment, and an official mandate to uphold international standards. Capacity building must therefore focus on educational programs to make developing country leaders knowledgeable about the value of international guidelines to their nations. Such knowledge is needed before people will become motivated to promote, implement, and uphold the guidelines. People in developing countries must help design bridges to help their nations put international standards into practice. The structure of such bridges may, of necessity, vary in different settings



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