A survey on the knowledge and attitudes towards the Austrian organ donation legislation (an opt-out solution) of selected groups of the Austrian population taking into account factors such as age, gender, level of education, affiliation to healthcare professions and health related studies was conducted.
An online survey among 3 target groups (ICU nurses, health science students and non health science students) was performed and results were compared to the answers from transplantation patients to a paper questionnaire. A total of 8415 persons were asked to participate in the survey and 2025 (24%) persons correctly completed the questionnaire. 1945 online responses (ICU nurses n = 185; students of health sciences n = 1277; students of non-health science related courses n = 483) were analysed and data were compared to 80 manually filled-in responses from patients from a previous study.
84% of participants state that they know the Austrian organ donation legislation; this percentage varies significantly (p < 0.05) within the target groups and is influenced by demographic variables of the participants. 74% think that the law is good and 79% do not favour a change. Opinions and attitudes towards the legal situation are positively influenced by the affiliation to healthcare professions and health-related fields of study. Interviewed persons who were aware of the legislation before the survey had a more positive attitude towards the existing legislation (77% versus 74%, p < 0.05).
The information level on Austrian organ donation legislation is high. ICU nurses and those who did not know the law before were most critical towards the existing legislation. Therefore education to increase knowledge in the general population and goal-oriented efforts to increase awareness in the target groups should be emphasized.
Organ donation; Legislation; Knowledge and attitude; ICU nurses; Students; Patients
The increase in the volume of research conducted in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMIC), has brought a renewed international focus on processes for ethical conduct of research. Several programs have been initiated to strengthen the capacity for research ethics in LMIC. However, most such programs focus on individual training or development of ethics review committees. The objective of this paper is to present an approach to institutional capacity assessment in research ethics and application of this approach in the form of a case study from an institution in Africa.
We adapted the Octagon model originally used by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to assess an organization along eight domains in research ethics: basic values and identity; structure and organization; ability to carry out activities; relevance of activities to stated goals; capacity of staff and management; administrative, financing and accounting systems; its relations with target groups; and the national context. We used a mixed methods approach to collect empirical data at the University of Botswana from March to December 2010.
The overall shape of the external evaluation Octagon suggests that strengths of the University of Botswana are in the areas of structure, relevance, production and identity; while the university still needs more work in the areas of systems of finance, target groups, and environment. The Octagons also show the similarities and discrepancies between the 'external' and 'internal' evaluations and provide an opportunity for exploration of these different assessments. For example, the discrepant score for 'identity' between internal and external evaluations allows for an exploration of what constitutes a strong identity for research ethics at the University of Botswana and how it can be strengthened.
There is a general lack of frameworks for evaluating research ethics capacity in LMICs. We presented an approach that stresses evaluation from both internal and external perspectives. This case study highlights the university's rapid progress in developing research ethics capacity and points to some notable areas for improvement. We believe that such an empirically-driven and participatory assessment allows a more holistic measurement and promotion of institutional capacity strengthening for research ethics in LMICs.
Africa; Botswana; Research ethics; Bioethics; Capacity development
Efforts to improve patients’ understanding of their own medical treatments or research in which they are involved are progressing, especially with regard to informed consent procedures. We aimed to design a multisource informed consent procedure that is easily adaptable to both clinical and research applications, and to evaluate its effectiveness in terms of understanding and awareness, even in less educated patients.
We designed a multisource informed consent procedure for patients’ enrolment in a Cancer Institute Biobank (CRO-Biobank). From October 2009 to July 2011, a total of 550 cancer patients admitted to the Centro di Riferimento Oncologico IRCCS Aviano, who agreed to contribute to its biobank, were consecutively enrolled. Participants were asked to answer a self-administered questionnaire aim at exploring their understanding of biobanks and their needs for information on this topic, before and after study participation. Chi-square tests were performed on the questionnaire answers, according to gender or education.
Of the 430 patients who returned the questionnaire, only 36.5% knew what a biobank was before participating in the study. Patients with less formal education were less informed by some sources (the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and our Institute). The final assessment test, taken after the multisource informed consent procedure, showed more than 95% correct answers. The information received was judged to be very or fairly understandable in almost all cases. More than 95% of patients were aware of participating in a biobank project, and gave helping cancer research (67.5%), moral obligation, and supporting cancer care as main reasons for their involvement.
Our multisource informed consent information system allowed a high rate of understanding and awareness of study participation, even among less-educated participants, and could be an effective and easy-to-apply model for others to consider to contribute to a well-informed decision making process in several fields, from clinical practice to research.
Further studies are needed to explore the effects on the study comprehension by each source of information, and by other sources suggested by participants in the questionnaire.
Informed consent; Patients; Understanding; Awareness; Biobank; Patient education; Empowerment
In resource-limited settings where healthcare services are limited and poverty is common, it is difficult to ethically conduct clinical research without providing patient-care. Therefore, integration of patient-care with clinical research appears as an attractive way of conducting research while providing patient-care. In this article, we discuss the ethical implications of such approach with perspectives from Papua New Guinea.
Considering the difficulties of providing basic healthcare services in developing countries, it may be argued that integration of clinical research with patient-care is an effective, rational and ethical way of conducting research. However, blending patient-care with clinical research may increase the risk of subordinating patient-care in favour of scientific gains; therapeutic misconception and inappropriate inducement; and the risk of causing health system failures due to limited capacity in developing countries to sustain the level of healthcare services sponsored by the research. Nevertheless, these ethical and administrative implications can be minimised if patient-care takes precedence over research; the input of local ethics committees and institutions are considered; and funding agencies acknowledge their ethical obligation when sponsoring research in resource-limited settings.
Although integration of patient-care with clinical research in developing countries appears as an attractive way of conducting research when resources are limited, careful planning and consideration on the ethical implications of such approach must be considered.
Developing countries; Resource-limited settings; Papua New Guinea; Ethical challenges; Therapeutic misconception; Inducement
Obtaining informed consent is a cornerstone of biomedical research, yet participants comprehension of presented information is often low. The most effective interventions to improve understanding rates have not been identified.
To systematically analyze the random controlled trials testing interventions to research informed consent process. The primary outcome of interest was quantitative rates of participant understanding; secondary outcomes were rates of information retention, satisfaction, and accrual. Interventional categories included multimedia, enhanced consent documents, extended discussions, test/feedback quizzes, and miscellaneous methods.
The search spanned from database inception through September 2010. It was run on Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid EMBASE, Ovid CINAHL, Ovid PsycInfo and Cochrane CENTRAL, ISI Web of Science and Scopus. Five reviewers working independently and in duplicate screened full abstract text to determine eligibility. We included only RCTs. 39 out of 1523 articles fulfilled review criteria (2.6%), with a total of 54 interventions. A data extraction form was created in Distiller, an online reference management system, through an iterative process. One author collected data on study design, population, demographics, intervention, and analytical technique.
Meta-analysis was possible on 22 interventions: multimedia, enhanced form, and extended discussion categories; all 54 interventions were assessed by review. Meta-analysis of multimedia approaches was associated with a non-significant increase in understanding scores (SMD 0.30, 95% CI, -0.23 to 0.84); enhanced consent form, with significant increase (SMD 1.73, 95% CI, 0.99 to 2.47); and extended discussion, with significant increase (SMD 0.53, 95% CI, 0.21 to 0.84). By review, 31% of multimedia interventions showed significant improvement in understanding; 41% for enhanced consent form; 50% for extended discussion; 33% for test/feedback; and 29% for miscellaneous.Multiple sources of variation existed between included studies: control processes, the presence of a human proctor, real vs. simulated protocol, and assessment formats.
Enhanced consent forms and extended discussions were most effective in improving participant understanding. Interventions of all categories had no negative impact on participant satisfaction or study accrual. Identification of best practices for studies of informed consent interventions would aid future systematic comparisons.
Informed consent; Comprehension; Systematic review
Photographs are commonly taken of children in medical and research contexts. With the increased availability of photographs through the internet, it is increasingly important to consider their potential for negative consequences and the nature of any consent obtained. In this research we explore the issues around photography in low-resource settings, in particular concentrating on the challenges in gaining informed consent.
Exploratory qualitative study using focus group discussions involving medical doctors and researchers who are currently working or have recently worked in low-resource settings with children.
Photographs are a valuable resource but photographers need to be mindful of how they are taken and used. Informed consent is needed when taking photographs but there were a number of problems in doing this, such as different concepts of consent, language and literacy barriers and the ability to understand the information. There was no consensus as to the form that the consent should take. Participants thought that while written consent was preferable, the mode of consent should depend on the situation.
Photographs are a valuable but potentially harmful resource, thus informed consent is required but its form may vary by context. We suggest applying a hierarchy of dissemination to gauge how detailed the informed consent should be. Care should be taken not to cause harm, with the rights of the child being the paramount consideration.
Photography; Ethics; Informed consent; Teleconference
In recent decades, the general public has become increasingly receptive toward a legislation that allows active voluntary euthanasia (AVE). The purpose of this study was to survey the current attitude towards AVE within the Austrian population and to identify explanatory factors in the areas of socio-demographics, personal experiences with care, and ideological orientation. A further objective was to examine differences depending on the type of problem formulation (abstract vs. situational) for the purpose of measuring attitude.
A representative cross-sectional study was conducted across the Austrian population. Data were acquired from 1,000 individuals aged 16 years and over based on telephone interviews (CATI). For the purpose of measuring attitude toward AVE, two different problem formulations (abstract vs. situational) were juxtaposed.
The abstract question about active voluntary euthanasia was answered negatively by 28.8%, while 71.2% opted in favour of AVE or were undecided. Regression analyses showed rejection of AVE was positively correlated with number of adults and children in the household, experience with care of seriously ill persons, a conservative worldview, and level of education. Mean or high family income was associated with lower levels of rejection. No independent correlations were found for variables such as sex, age, political orientation, self-rated health, and experiences with care of terminally ill patients. Correlation for the situational problem formulation was weaker and included fewer predictors than for the abstract question.
Our results suggest that factors relating to an individual’s interpersonal living situation and his/her cognitive convictions might be important determinants of the attitude toward AVE. If and to the extent that personal care experience plays a role, it is rather associated with rejection than with acceptance of AVE.
Euthanasia; Attitude; End-of-life care; Public opinion; Austria
Tuberculosis is a major global public health challenge, and a majority of countries have adopted a version of the global strategy to fight Tuberculosis, Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS). Drawing on results from research in Ethiopia and Norway, the aim of this paper is to highlight and discuss ethical aspects of the practice of Directly Observed Treatment (DOT) in a cross-cultural perspective.
Research from Ethiopia and Norway demonstrates that the rigid enforcement of directly observed treatment conflicts with patient autonomy, dignity and integrity. The treatment practices, especially when imposed in its strictest forms, expose those who have Tuberculosis to extra burdens and costs. Socially disadvantaged groups, such as the homeless, those employed as day labourers and those lacking rights as employees, face the highest burdens.
From an ethical standpoint, we argue that a rigid practice of directly observed treatment is difficult to justify, and that responsiveness to social determinants of Tuberculosis should become an integral part of the management of Tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis; Directly Observed Treatment; Ethics; Socially Disadvantaged
On its establishment, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined health as a fundamental human right deserving legal protection. Subsequently, the Ottawa Charter reaffirmed health as a fundamental right, and emphasized health promotion as the most appropriate response to global health issues. Here we suggest that the WHO definition of health as more than simply the absence of illness is not normative, and therefore requires standardization. To date such standardization unfortunately is lacking.
National legislatures must actively ensure fair access to health care, both nationally and internationally, and also must reduce social inequality. To achieve this requires practical action, not statements of intentions, commitments or targets. Protecting fundamental rights to health care can be a fruitful focus for legislatures. Legislative action can build an objective legal framework for health care law, and guide its interpretation and application. Additionally, it is important to ensure the law is appropriate, useful and sustainable.
Action is needed to protect the fundamental right to health care. Legislators should appropriately incorporate the WHO recommendations regarding this right into national law. Additionally, professional experts should help interpret and codify concepts of health and join the interdisciplinary discussion of a variable health standard.
WHO; Health; Right to health; Democratic process
On site monitoring of research is one of the most effective ways to ensure compliance during research conduct. However, it is least carried out primarily for two reasons: presumed high costs both in terms of human resources and finances; and the lack of a clear framework for undertaking site monitoring. In this paper we discuss a model for research site monitoring that may be cost effective and feasible in low resource settings.
This was a retrospective review of research site monitoring reports covering a period of four years.
The monitoring was conducted by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, the National Drug Authority and the National HIV/AIDS Research and Ethics Committee over the period 2007 to 2010.
The monitoring team was usually three members comprising of two experts in research ethics and an assistant. A total of 28 site monitoring visits covering 40 research projects were reviewed. 25% of the site monitoring reports revealed violation of the regulatory requirement for valid ethical approval. 36% of the site reports showed some instances of informed consent violation, 28% showed violation of the rights and welfare of research participants, 38% revealed that sites did not report SAEs to regulatory authorities and many sites lacked adequate GCP and GCLP. However, most of the sites monitored had adequate facilities to conduct the respective studies and good working practices.
This model employed by the monitoring teams to evaluate research compliance is effective in auditing ethical practice. Compliance monitoring is feasible and affordable in a resource limited setting. Research protocol non compliance is still a major problem in Uganda, and there is need for a pro-active approach to this vice by all stake holders if ethical conduct of research is to be achieved.
Research; Monitoring; Compliance; Ethics; Uganda
Ethical conflicts are arising as a result of the growing complexity of clinical care, coupled with technological advances. Most studies that have developed instruments for measuring ethical conflict base their measures on the variables ‘frequency’ and ‘degree of conflict’. In our view, however, these variables are insufficient for explaining the root of ethical conflicts. Consequently, the present study formulates a conceptual model that also includes the variable ‘exposure to conflict’, as well as considering six ‘types of ethical conflict’. An instrument was then designed to measure the ethical conflicts experienced by nurses who work with critical care patients. The paper describes the development process and validation of this instrument, the Ethical Conflict in Nursing Questionnaire Critical Care Version (ECNQ-CCV).
The sample comprised 205 nursing professionals from the critical care units of two hospitals in Barcelona (Spain). The ECNQ-CCV presents 19 nursing scenarios with the potential to produce ethical conflict in the critical care setting. Exposure to ethical conflict was assessed by means of the Index of Exposure to Ethical Conflict (IEEC), a specific index developed to provide a reference value for each respondent by combining the intensity and frequency of occurrence of each scenario featured in the ECNQ-CCV. Following content validity, construct validity was assessed by means of Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA), while Cronbach’s alpha was used to evaluate the instrument’s reliability. All analyses were performed using the statistical software PASW v19.
Cronbach’s alpha for the ECNQ-CCV as a whole was 0.882, which is higher than the values reported for certain other related instruments. The EFA suggested a unidimensional structure, with one component accounting for 33.41% of the explained variance.
The ECNQ-CCV is shown to a valid and reliable instrument for use in critical care units. Its structure is such that the four variables on which our model of ethical conflict is based may be studied separately or in combination. The critical care nurses in this sample present moderate levels of exposure to ethical conflict. This study represents the first evaluation of the ECNQ-CCV.
Rapid advances in high throughput genomic technologies and next generation sequencing are making medical genomic research more readily accessible and affordable, including the sequencing of patient and control whole genomes and exomes in order to elucidate genetic factors underlying disease. Over the next five years, the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Initiative, funded by the Wellcome Trust (United Kingdom) and the National Institutes of Health (United States of America), will contribute greatly towards sequencing of numerous African samples for biomedical research.
Funding agencies and journals often require submission of genomic data from research participants to databases that allow open or controlled data access for all investigators. Access to such genotype-phenotype and pedigree data, however, needs careful control in order to prevent identification of individuals or families. This is particularly the case in Africa, where many researchers and their patients are inexperienced in the ethical issues accompanying whole genome and exome research; and where an historical unidirectional flow of samples and data out of Africa has created a sense of exploitation and distrust. In the current study, we analysed the implications of the anticipated surge of next generation sequencing data in Africa and the subsequent data sharing concepts on the protection of privacy of research subjects. We performed a retrospective analysis of the informed consent process for the continent and the rest-of-the-world and examined relevant legislation, both current and proposed. We investigated the following issues: (i) informed consent, including guidelines for performing culturally-sensitive next generation sequencing research in Africa and availability of suitable informed consent documents; (ii) data security and subject privacy whilst practicing data sharing; (iii) conveying the implications of such concepts to research participants in resource limited settings.
We conclude that, in order to meet the unique requirements of performing next generation sequencing-related research in African populations, novel approaches to the informed consent process are required. This will help to avoid infringement of privacy of individual subjects as well as to ensure that informed consent adheres to acceptable data protection levels with regard to use and transfer of such information.
African populations; Ethical; legal; and societal issues; Next generation sequencing; Whole genome and whole exome sequencing
In recent years, personalized medicine (PM) has become a highly regarded line of development in medicine. Yet, it is still a relatively new field. As a consequence, the discussion of its future developments, in particular of its ethical implications, in most cases can only be anticipative. Such anticipative discussions, however, pose several challenges. Nevertheless, they play a crucial role for shaping PM’s further developments. Therefore, it is vital to understand how the ethical discourse on PM is conducted, i.e. on what – empirical and normative – assumptions ethical arguments are based regarding PM’s current and future developments.
To gather this information, we conducted a qualitative interview study with stakeholders in the German health care system. Our purposive sample included 17 representatives of basic research, clinical research, health economics, regulatory authorities, reimbursement institutions, pharmaceutical industry, patient organizations, as well as clinicians and legal experts involved in PM developments or policy making. We used an interview guide with open-ended questions and analyzed transcriptions of the interviews by means of qualitative content analysis.
The respondents addressed a multitude of concerns in the context of research on as well as application of personalized preventive and therapeutic measures both on the individual and on the societal level. Interestingly, regarding future developments of PM the ethical evaluation seemed to follow the rule: the less likely its application, the more problematic a PM measure is assessed. The more likely its application, on the other hand, the less problematic it is evaluated.
The results of our study suggest re-focusing the ethical discourse on PM in Germany towards a constructive ethical monitoring which ensures to include only, nevertheless all of the actual and/or potential concerns that are ethically relevant in order to allow balancing them against the actual and potential ethically relevant benefits of PM measures. To render this possible, we propose a strategy for evaluating ethical concerns in the context of PM.
Conflicts of interest affect recommendations in clinical guidelines and disclosure of such conflicts is important. However, not all conflicts of interest are disclosed. Using a public available disclosure list we determined the prevalence and underreporting of conflicts of interest among authors of clinical guidelines on drug treatments.
We included up to five guidelines published from July 2010 to March 2012 from each Danish clinical specialty society. Using the disclosure list of the Danish Health and Medicines Authority, we identified author conflicts of interest and compared them with the disclosures in the guidelines. For each guideline we extracted methodological characteristics of guideline development.
Forty-five guidelines from 14 specialty societies were included. Of 254 authors, 135 (53%) had conflicts of interest, corresponding to 43 of the 45 guidelines (96%) having one or more authors with a conflict of interest. Only one of the 45 guidelines (2%) disclosed author conflicts of interest. The most common type of conflict of interest (83 of the 135) was being a consultant, an advisory board member or a company employee. Only 10 guidelines (22%) described the methods used for guideline development, 27 (60%) used references in the text and 11 (24%) graded the types of evidence.
Conflicts of interest were common, but disclosures were very rare. Most guidelines did not describe how they were developed and many did not describe the evidence behind specific recommendations. Publicly available disclosure lists may assist guideline issuing bodies in ensuring that all conflicts are disclosed.
Clinical practice guidelines; Conflicts of interest; Disclosure; Transparency
Bariatric surgery for children and adolescents is becoming widespread. However, the evidence is still scarce and of poor quality, and many of the patients are too young to consent. This poses a series of moral challenges, which have to be addressed both when considering bariatric surgery introduced as a health care service and when deciding for treatment for young individuals. A question based (Socratic) approach is applied to reveal underlying moral issues that can be relevant to an open and transparent decision making process.
A wide range of moral issues with bariatric surgery for children and adolescents is identified in the literature. There is a moral imperative to help obese minors avoiding serious health problems, but there is little high quality evidence on safety, outcomes, and cost-effectiveness for bariatric surgery in this group. Lack of maturity and family relations poses a series of challenges with autonomy, informed consent, assent, and assessing the best interest of children and adolescents. Social aspects of obesity, such as medicalization, prejudice, and discrimination, raise problems with justice and trust in health professionals. Conceptual issues, such as definition of obesity and treatment end-points, present moral problems. Hidden interests of patients, parents, professionals, industry, and society need to be revealed.
Performing bariatric surgery for obese children and adolescents in order to discipline their behavior warrants reflection and caution. More evidence on outcomes is needed to be able to balance benefits and risks, to provide information for a valid consent or assent, and to advise minors and parents.
Bariatric surgery; Children; Adolescents; Ethics; Moral
The editors of BMC Medical Ethics would like to thank all our reviewers who have contributed to the journal in Volume 13 (2012).
The tissue biobanking of specific biological residual materials, which constitutes a useful resource for medical/scientific research, has raised some ethical issues, such as the need to define which kind of consent is applicable for biological residual materials biobanks.
Biobank research cannot be conducted without considering arguments for obtaining the donors’ consent: in this paper we discuss to what extent consent in biobank research on oncological residual materials has to be required, and what type of consent would be appropriate in this context, considering the ethical principles of donation, solidarity, protection of the donors’ rights and the requirements of scientific progress. Regarding the relationship between informed consent and tissue collection, storage and research, we have focused on two possible choices related to the treatment of data and samples in the biobank: irreversible and reversible anonymization of the samples, distinguishing between biobank research on residual materials for which obtaining consent is necessary and justified, and biobank research for which it is not. The procedures involve different approaches and possible solutions that we will seek to define. The consent for clinical research reported in the Helsinki Declaration regards research involving human beings and for this reason it is subordinate to specific and detailed information on the research projects.
An important ethical aspect in regard to the role of Biobanks is encouraging sample donation. For donors, seeing human samples being kept rather than discarded, and seeing them become useful for research highlights the importance of the human body and improves the attitude towards donation. This process might also facilitate the giving of informed consent more willingly, and with greater trust.
Biobanks; Consent; Oncological residual material; Cancer biobanks; Residual materials biobanks; Informed consent; Ethics; Research; Solidarity
Should those who work on ethics welcome or resist moves to open access publishing? This paper analyses arguments in favour and against the increasing requirement for open access publishing and considers their implications for bioethics research. In the context of biomedical science, major funders are increasingly mandating open access as a condition of funding and such moves are also common in other disciplines. Whilst there has been some debate about the implications of open-access for the social sciences and humanities, there has been little if any discussion about the implications of open access for ethics. This is surprising given both the central role of public reason and critique in ethics and the fact that many of the arguments made for and against open access have been couched in moral terms. In what follows I argue that those who work in ethics have a strong interest in supporting moves towards more open publishing approaches which have the potential both to inform and promote richer and more diverse forms of public deliberation and to be enriched by them. The importance of public deliberation in practical and applied ethics suggests that ethicists have a particular interest in the promotion of diverse and experimental forms of publication and debate and in supporting new, more creative and more participatory approaches to publication.
Ethics; Bioethics open access; Publishing ethics; Gold model; Universities humanities
South Africa currently has a pluralistic health care system with separate public and private sectors. It is, however, moving towards a socialised model with the introduction of National Health Insurance. The South African legislative environment has changed recently with the promulgation of the Consumer Protection Act and proposed amendments to the National Health Act. Patients can now be viewed as consumers from a legal perspective. This has various implications for health care systems, health care providers and the doctor-patient relationship.
Calling a recipient of health care a ‘consumer’ as opposed to a ‘patient’ has distinct connotations and may result in differential behaviour. Labels reflect the ideals of the context in which they are used. Various models of the doctor-patient relationship exist and different metaphors have been used to describe it. Increasingly there are third parties involved within the doctor-patient relationship making it more difficult for the doctor to play the fiduciary role. In certain parts of the world, there has been a shift from a traditional paternalistic model to a consumerist model. The ethical implications of the commodification of health care are complex. As health care becomes a ‘product’ supplied by the health care ‘provider’, there is the risk that doctors will replace professional ethics with those of the marketplace. Health care is a universal human need and cannot be considered a mere commodity. In modern medical ethics, great emphasis is placed on the principle of respect for patient autonomy. Patients are now the ultimate decision-makers. The new Consumer Protection Act in South Africa applies to consumers and patients alike. It enforces strict liability for harm caused by goods and services. Everyone in the supply chain, including the doctor, can be held jointly and severally liable. This may lead to enormous challenges in health care delivery.
Viewing patients as consumers may be detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship. While it facilitates an emphasis on respect for patient autonomy, it inadvertently results in the commodification of health care. The new legislative environment in South Africa promotes the protection of patient rights. It may, however, contribute to increased medical litigation.
Patients; Consumers; Health care; Consumerism; Commodification; Autonomy; Rights; Ethical; Legal; South African
Millions of people undergo displacement in the world. Internally displaced people (IDP) are especially vulnerable as they are not protected by special legislation in contrast to other migrants. Research conducted among IDPs must be correspondingly sensitive in dealing with ethical issues that may arise. Muslim IDPs in Puttalam district in the North-Western province of Sri Lanka were initially displaced from Northern Sri Lanka due to the conflict in 1991. In the backdrop of a study exploring the prevalence of common mental disorders among the IDPs, researchers encountered various ethical challenges. These included inter-related issues of autonomy, non-maleficence, beneficence, confidentiality and informed consent, and how these were tailored in a culture-specific way to a population that has increased vulnerability. This paper analyses how these ethical issues were perceived, detected and managed by the researchers, and the role of ethics review committees in mental health research concerning IDPs. The relevance of guidelines and methodologies in the context of an atypical study population and the benefit versus risk potential of research for IDPs are also discussed. The limitations that were encountered while dealing with ethical challenges during the study are discussed. The concept of post-research ethical conduct audit is suggested to be considered as a potential step to minimize the exploitation of vulnerable populations such as IDPs in mental health research.
Sri Lanka; Bioethics; Ethical challenges; Internally displaced people; Mental health research; Post-research ethics audit; Practical ethics; Developing world
Audio-visual teleconsultation is expected to help home-based palliative patients, hospital-based palliative care professionals, and family physicians to jointly design better, pro-active care. Consensual knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of teleconsultation in transmural palliative care is, however, largely lacking.
This paper aims at describing elements of both the physical workplace and the cultural-social context of the palliative care practice, which are imperative for the use of teleconsultation technologies.
A semi-structured expert meeting and qualitative, open interviews were deployed to explore professionals’ assumptions and wishes, which are considered to contain latent presumptions about the practice’s physical workplace and latent elements of the cultural-social context, regarding (1) the mediating potential of audio-visual teleconsultation, (2) how the audio-visual teleconsultations will affect medical practice, and (3) the design and usage of the teleconsultation technology. We used a qualitative analysis to investigate how palliative care professionals interpret the teleconsultation package in preparation. The analysis entailed open and axial coding techniques developed in a grounded theory approach.
Respondents assume: 1. teleconsultation will hinder physical proximity, thereby compromising anamnesis and diagnosis of new or acutely ill patients as well as “real contact” with the person behind the patient; 2. teleconsultation will help patients becoming more of a pivotal figure in their own care trajectory; 3. they can use teleconsultation to keep a finger on the pulse; 4. teleconsultations have a healing effect of their own due to offered time and digital attention; 5. teleconsultation to open up an additional “gray” network outside the hierarchical structures of the established chain of transmural palliative care. This network could cause bypassing of caregivers and uncertainty about responsibilities; 6. teleconsultations lead to an extended flow of information which helps palliative care professionals to check the stories of patients and medical specialists.
Professionals assume teleconsultation co-defines a new patient–professional relationship by extending hospital-based caregivers’ perceptions of as well as attention for their patients. At the cost, however, of clinical and personal connectedness. Secondly, a hermeneutics is needed to carefully interpret teleconsultation images. Thirdly, teleconsultations transform caregiving cultures as formerly separated care domains collide, demanding a redefinition of roles and responsibilities.
Telecare; Audio-visual teleconsultations; Palliative care; Transmural care; Integrated health care; Mediation of professional-patient relations; Ethics; Philosophy of technology
The Netherlands is one of the few countries where euthanasia is legal under strict conditions. This study investigates whether Dutch newspaper articles use the term ‘euthanasia’ according to the legal definition and determines what arguments for and against euthanasia they contain.
We did an electronic search of seven Dutch national newspapers between January 2009 and May 2010 and conducted a content analysis.
Of the 284 articles containing the term ‘euthanasia’, 24% referred to practices outside the scope of the law, mostly relating to the forgoing of life-prolonging treatments and assistance in suicide by others than physicians. Of the articles with euthanasia as the main topic, 36% described euthanasia in the context of a terminally ill patient, 24% for older persons, 16% for persons with dementia, and 9% for persons with a psychiatric disorder. The most frequent arguments for euthanasia included the importance of self-determination and the fact that euthanasia contributes to a good death. The most frequent arguments opposing euthanasia were that suffering should instead be alleviated by better care, that providing euthanasia can be disturbing, and that society should protect the vulnerable.
Of the newspaper articles, 24% uses the term ‘euthanasia’ for practices that are outside the scope of the euthanasia law. Typically, the more unusual cases are discussed. This might lead to misunderstandings between citizens and physicians. Despite the Dutch legalisation of euthanasia, the debate about its acceptability and boundaries is ongoing and both sides of the debate are clearly represented.
Euthanasia; Media; Content analysis
The global expansion of biobanks has led to a range of bioethical concerns related to consent, privacy, control, ownership, and disclosure. As an opportunity to engage broader audiences on these concerns, bioethicists have welcomed the commercial success of Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. To assess the impact of the book on discussion within the media and popular culture more generally, we systematically analyzed the ethics-related themes emphasized in reviews and articles about the book, and in interviews and profiles of Skloot.
We conducted a content analysis of a population of relevant English-language articles and transcripts (n = 125) produced by news organizations and publications in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain/Ireland, and Australia/New Zealand. We scored each article for the emphasis and appearance of 9 ethics-related themes. These were informed consent, welfare of the vulnerable, compensation, scientific progress, control/access, accountability/oversight, privacy, public education, and advocacy.
The informed consent theme dominated media discussion, with almost 39.2 percent of articles/transcripts featuring the theme as a major focus and 44.8 percent emphasizing the theme as a minor focus. Other prominent themes and frames of reference focused on the welfare of the vulnerable (18.4 percent major emphasis; 36.0 percent minor emphasis), and donor compensation (19.2 percent major; 52.8 percent minor). Ethical themes that comprised a second tier of prominence included those of scientific progress, control/access, and accountability/oversight. The least prominent themes were privacy, public education, and advocacy.
The book has been praised as an opportunity to elevate media discussion of bioethics, but such claims should be re-considered. The relatively narrow focus on informed consent in the media discussion generated by Skloot’s book may limit the ability of ethicists and advocates to elevate attention to donor control, compensation, patenting, privacy, and other ethical issues. Still, ethicists should view the book and a pending major TV film translation as opportunities to highlight through media outreach, consultation exercises and public forums a broader range of bioethical concerns that would otherwise be under-emphasized in news coverage. Such efforts, however, need to be carefully planned and evaluated.
A baby hatch called the “Stork’s Cradle” has been in place at Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto City, Japan, since May 10, 2007. Babyklappes were first established in Germany in 2000, and there are currently more than 90 locations. Attitudes regarding baby hatches are divided in Japan and neither opinions for nor against baby hatches have thus far been overwhelming. To consider the appropriateness of baby hatches, we present and examine the validity of each major objection to establishing baby hatches.
There are various objections to baby hatches as follows: It violates a child’s right to know the identity of his or her biological parents by allowing anonymous birth; it neglects fulfillment of the biological parents’ basic obligation to raise their child and its very availability induces abandonment of infants; some people abuse it for very selfish reasons; it cannot save babies’ lives; the rights of one parent can be ignored if the other surrenders a child without his or her consent; it puts a baby in medical jeopardy; and it has no clear legal basis. The authors would argue that there are many plausible refutations for each objection mainly based on priority of child’s right to life, pregnant women’s vulnerability and necessity of anonymity, social responsibility to protect and raise children, differences between dropping a child off at a baby hatch and child neglect, limited function of social childcare center, inevitability of abuse by a minority of people, necessary distinction between outcomes that occur only because baby hatches exist and those that occur regardless of their existence, important local direct and upmost measures for women in trouble, and difference between ambiguous legality and illegality.
We argue that a certain number of baby hatches should continue to be established as a last resort, in a form that can maintain anonymity if the parent dropping the child off so desires. It should be supported if it is initiated with good intentions; if the maximum possible effort is made at said facility to protect the interests, rights, and safety of the child; and if no clear evidence of harm exists.
Baby hatch; “Stork’s Cradle (Kounotori no Yurikago)”; Babyklappes; Japan; Child abuse; Child abandonment; Abortion
To evaluate the effectiveness of a multifaceted intervention in improving emergency department (ED) patient privacy and satisfaction in the crowded ED setting.
A pre- and post-intervention study was conducted. A multifaceted intervention was implemented in a university-affiliated hospital ED. The intervention developed strategies to improve ED patient privacy and satisfaction, including redesigning the ED environment, process management, access control, and staff education and training, and encouraging ethics consultation. The effectiveness of the intervention was evaluated using patient surveys. Eligibility data were collected after the intervention and compared to data collected before the intervention. Differences in patient satisfaction and patient perception of privacy were adjusted for predefined covariates using multivariable ordinal logistic regression.
Structured questionnaires were collected with 313 ED patients before the intervention and 341 ED patients after the intervention. There were no important covariate differences, except for treatment area, between the two groups. Significant improvements were observed in patient perception of “personal information overheard by others”, being “seen by irrelevant persons”, having “unintentionally heard inappropriate conversations from healthcare providers”, and experiencing “providers’ respect for my privacy”. There was significant improvement in patient overall perception of privacy and satisfaction. There were statistically significant correlations between the intervention and patient overall perception of privacy and satisfaction on multivariable analysis.
Significant improvements were achieved with an intervention. Patients perceived significantly more privacy and satisfaction in ED care after the intervention. We believe that these improvements were the result of major philosophical, administrative, and operational changes aimed at respecting both patient privacy and satisfaction.
Ethical environment; Privacy; Confidentiality; Satisfaction; Emergency Department