[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Ethics issues in the areas of science, technology and medicine have emerged during the last few decades. Many countries have responded by establishing ethics committees at the national level. Identification of National Ethics Committees (NECs) in the Eastern Mediterranean (EM) region and the extent of their functions and capacity would be helpful in developing capacity building programs that address the needs of these committees. Accordingly, we conducted a survey to determine the characteristics of existing NECs in the EM region.
We developed a questionnaire to collect information on different aspects of NECs. The questionnaire was sent to the WHO country office in each of the 22 Member States in the EM region. We used descriptive statistics to analyze the data.
We obtained responses from 77% (17/22) of the EM countries; 88% (15/17) of the countries stated they had NECs. Of these NECs, 40% (6/15) were involved in the ethics of science and technology, 73% (11/15) in medical ethics, and 93% (14/15) in medical research ethics; 10 NECs stated they reviewed research protocols. Of the respondent NECs, 25% (4/15) met at least on a monthly basis. Regarding training, 21% of the members from all of the NECs had received formal training in ethics; 53% (8/15) of the NECs had none of their members with formal training in ethics. Regarding support, 33% (5/15) received financial support and 60% (9/15) had administrative support.
While many countries in the EM region report the existence of NECs, many meet infrequently, many have members without formal training in ethics, and many lack important financial and administrative resources. Further efforts should be directed towards capacity building programs that include ethics training and provision of important infrastructure resources for these committees.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Commentators have expressed concern regarding the existence of proper ethics review systems in developing countries. Our aim is to explore the extent with which investigators from countries in the Eastern Mediterranean (EM) Region consider several ethical practices in the conduct of their research.
Investigators from 12 countries in the EM region submitted 143 proposals involving Public Health and Biotechnology & Genomics to a grant scheme funded by the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office of the WHO and the Organization of Islamic Conference Standing Committee for Science and Technological Cooperation in 2006. The grant application included a 1-page questionnaire that asked investigators 1) whether ethical clearance was obtained, 2) whether they plan to obtain informed consent, and 3) whether confidentiality of human subject data would be ensured. The methodologies of the submitted researches were categorized as to whether it involved 1) human subject research (e.g., the prospective collection of biological specimens or the performance of qualitative research), 2) research that could be exempt from ongoing ethics review, and 3) research not involving human subjects. A descriptive analysis was used to analyze the investigators' responses and a chi-square analysis was used to analyze categorical variables. Of the 79 submitted proposals determined to involve "human subjects", ethical clearance was not obtained in 29%; investigators thought that informed consent was not needed in 29%; and investigators did not mention that they would ensure confidentiality of the obtained data in 8% of the studies. The magnitude of these deficiencies was similar regardless of study design type, i.e., prospective collection of biological samples and qualitative research methods.
These results suggest that attention to ethical safeguards is not optimal among investigators in the EM Region. Further guidelines for strengthening ethical review systems, as well as enhanced educational training in concepts of research ethics for investigators are warranted in this region.