Warwick researchers' "ethical compass" to support global health emergencies
Two Warwick University researchers have contributed to a new report from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics calling for a more ethical and collaborative approach to conducting research during global health emergencies such as infectious disease outbreaks.
Professor Simon Caney from the Department of Politics and International Studies, and Dr Sharifah Sekalala, Associate Professor in the School of Law, were members of the Working Party which conducted an in-depth inquiry, reviewing the policies and practices of global health emergency research, and presented 24 recommendations for improvement in the form of an "ethical compass" to guide the decisions of those on the ground.
The latest novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, illustrates how suddenly new threats can emerge, and the important role that research has to play in understanding the nature of the threat, and how to respond effectively.
The pressures and distressing circumstances of such emergency situations can lead to uncertainty about what is ethically acceptable with regards to conducting research, which may mean valuable research is impeded, or that unethical practices could creep in undetected.
Following a two-year inquiry, the Nuffield Council’s Call for Action highlights a number of proposals including: More investment in community engagement so that local voices can be heard, and that everyone involved in research in global health emergencies is treated fairly and respectfully. Ensuring that, before proceeding with any research project, participants’ basic health needs are being addressed. Funders will need to work in partnerships with humanitarian organisations and health ministries to achieve this. Better support for emergency planning, to secure robust health and health research systems - given the vital importance of properly resourced preparedness between emergencies.