A chronological discourse analysis of ancillary care provision in guidance documents for research conduct in the global south

BMC Medical Ethics 23 (1):1-16 (2022)
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Introduction Numerous guidelines and policies for ethical research practice have evolved over time, how this translates to global health practice in resource-constrained settings is unclear. The purpose of this paper is to describe how the concept of ancillary care has evolved over time and how it is included in the ethics guidelines and policy documents that guide the conduct of research in the global south with both an international focus and providing a specific example of Malawi, where the first author lives and works, as a case study. Methods Discourse analysis was conducted on 34 international ethics guidelines and policy documents. Documents were purposively selected if they contained a set of key terms that reflect the concept of ancillary care. Following a process of inductive discourse analysis, five key interrelated text phrases relating to ancillary care were extracted from the documents. The evolution of these phrases over time was explored as they represented the development of the concept of ancillary care as a component of ethical health research guidance and practice. Results We found key interrelated phrases that represent discourses regarding the evolution of ancillary care including participant protection; provide care as appropriate; supererogation; patient needs prevail over science; and ancillary care as an obligation. Arguments for the provision of ancillary care were characterised by safeguarding the safety, health rights and well-being of study participants. However, despite the evolution of discourse around ethical obligations to provide ancillary care, this is rarely made explicit within guidance documents, leaving interpretive space for differential application in practice. Conclusion While there have been major changes to the ethics guidance that reflect significant evolution in the ethical conduct of research, the specific vocabulary or language used to explain the ethics of researchers' ancillary care obligations to the health needs of their research participants, lacks clarity and consistency. As a result, the concept of ancillary care continues to be under-represented in local ethical guidelines and regulations, with no clear directives for country-level research ethics committees to apply in regulating ancillary care responsibilities.



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