Linking international research to global health equity: The limited contribution of bioethics

Bioethics 27 (4):208-214 (2013)

Abstract

Health research has been identified as a vehicle for advancing global justice in health. However, in bioethics, issues of global justice are mainly discussed within an ongoing debate on the conditions under which international clinical research is permissible. As a result, current ethical guidance predominantly links one type of international research (biomedical) to advancing one aspect of health equity (access to new treatments). International guidelines largely fail to connect international research to promoting broader aspects of health equity – namely, healthier social environments and stronger health systems. Bioethical frameworks such as the human development approach do consider how international clinical research is connected to the social determinants of health but, again, do so to address the question of when international clinical research is permissible. It is suggested that the narrow focus of this debate is shaped by high-income countries' economic strategies. The article further argues that the debate's focus obscures a stronger imperative to consider how other types of international research might advance justice in global health. Bioethics should consider the need for non-clinical health research and its contribution to advancing global justice

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