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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Question for Research Ethics Monthly readers: Win for your institution a new 12-month subscription to https://www.ahrecs.vip0

Posted by Admin in AHRECS Admin, Human Research Ethics, Research Integrity, Services on December 23, 2019 / Keywords: , ,
 

Prof. Mark Israel and Dr Gary Allen

We would like to encourage institutions to try out the ahrecs.vip set of resources. We also would like to crowdsource additional material and request the help of members of the research ethics community of practice. People like you. So, if you would like an opportunity to win a new 12-month subscription to ahrecs.vip, please send us your answer to one of the following questions:

  1. The best thing our HREC ever did was…
  2. The most important change I’d make to how my institution deals with research ethics is…

Your response to either of these questions should be between 50 and 500 words and can take the form of a short briefing note, a poem or a video recording with emphasis on either entertainment or information or both. Your submission must be received by 5pm Friday 31 March 2020.

Entries will be judged by members of the AHRECS team.  The best entry will win for their institution a new 12-month subscription to https://www.ahrecs.vip (valued at $350).  The April edition of the Research Ethics Monthly will include excerpts from some of our favourite entries and AHRECS reserves the right to draw on material within the entries and reproduce within the ahrecs.vip site while acknowledging the source of the material.

For more information send an email to gary.allen@ahrecs.com.

Advances in Medicine often require innovation in ethical thinking too0

 

Nik Zeps and Tanya Symons
AHRECS Consultant

Breakthroughs in medicine often highlight the existing limitations of the frameworks established to manage the ethical responsibilities arising in healthcare. The contraceptive pill, organ transplantation, assisted reproductive technology, gene therapy and more recently gene editing are notable examples that have stimulated major debates and, in several instances, prompted changes to not only ethical guidelines but also legislation. However, there are also more subtle ethical issues that arise from doing established activities in a different context or scale. Think of so-called Big Data applied to health care or to uses of machine-based learning which promise to revolutionize practice but are really just larger scale applications of business as usual using more sophisticated technology than before. One result of these two developments is the amassing of personal data online which coupled with improvements in reidentification techniques present challenges to how we manage the privacy of individuals.  These have prompted amendments in regulation that facilitate the use of personal data whilst also strengthening protections for individuals (link to GDPR).

Less well known, are changes in the way we evaluate existing healthcare practices to ensure they are truly safe, effective and economical.  One such example is the increasing focus on Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER). These studies compare two or more existing practices that are in widespread use and have been found safe and efficacious. CER is an extension of audit/QI practices in that it uses clinical trial methodology and the power of randomisation to remove the biases inherent in the observed outcomes in a population of non-randomised patients receiving a particular health service. These studies generally include large numbers of patients (sometimes several thousand) so that they can detect differences between the interventions that, while relatively small, can nonetheless be clinically meaningful at a population level.

There is an over-riding ethical need to do this work constantly within what can be termed a ‘learning healthcare system’ 1.  Conceptually this means that every single instance that a person interacts with the health system should be captured in a manner in which it can be evaluated to make sure that optimal care is provided. Both patients and health system leaders expect this to be happening and yet in truth, the lack of standardisation in data capture, storage and interoperability means that few do this efficiently and effectively as part of routine healthcare activity. Moreover, existing research ethics frameworks impede the integration of healthcare and research by failing to recognise the differences between studies that involve standard care treatments from studies testing novel interventions with unknown safety profiles.  One example is the requirement to apply to comparative effectiveness studies informed consent processes that differ so greatly from routine consent to treatment they are impossible to integrate into routine clinical workflows.

In a recent paper, (Symons et al 2) we have considered whether approaches that utilise modified consent pathways for CER are permissible from an ethical and regulatory perspective. In an accompanying editorial 3Dr Evan Kharasch challenges the readers of the journal to consider how the existing ethical and legal frameworks can be complied with for trials where the risk of harm is small. There is a perception that as soon as a study employs randomisation it becomes more than low risk when this may not, in fact, be true. It is also important to consider the ethical issues that arise when this type of ‘public good’ trial is simply not done because using consent processes suitable for interventional trials of unapproved therapeutics makes them impracticable. If indeed a particular treatment is less effective or causes more harm and we continue to use it because we consider that currently required ethics processes render them impracticable, then those processes have led to potentially unethical outcomes.

To achieve the best healthcare outcomes, greater sophistication of thought is needed at the ethics committee level. It also seems obvious that greater engagement with consumers is a necessary and relevant pathway to designing and conducting trials that deliver on expectations. The Australian Clinical Trials Alliance (ACTA) together with the Trials Clinical Trials: Impact & Quality (CT:IQ) have developed a consumer involvement and engagement toolkit that serves this purpose [1]. By working more closely together and encouraging more flexible and contemporary approaches to research ethics compliance, we can achieve the ideal of encouraging and supporting clinicians and health services to undertake continuous improvements to health services using the best methodologies to achieve this for the benefit of the community they serve.

References

1          Faden, R. R. et al. An ethics framework for a learning health care system: a departure from traditional research ethics and clinical ethics. Hastings Cent Rep Spec No, S16-27, doi:10.1002/hast.134 (2013).

2          Symons, T. J., Zeps, N., Myles, P. S., Morris, J. M. & Sessler, D. I. International Policy Frameworks for Consent in Minimal-risk Pragmatic Trials. Anesthesiology 132, 44-54, doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000003020 (2020).

3          Kharasch, E. D. Innovation in Clinical Research Regulation. Anesthesiology 132, 1-4, doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000003026 (2020).

[1] https://involvementtoolkit.clinicaltrialsalliance.org.au/

This post may be cited as:

Zeps, N. (22 December 2019) Advances in Medicine often require innovation in ethical thinking too. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/advances-in-medicine-often-require-innovation-in-ethical-thinking-too-2

A preliminary geneaology of research ethics review and Māori0

 

Lindsey Te Ata o Tu MacDonald
AHRECS, Consultant
  

In New Zealand, we have two separate drivers for change in research ethics for working with Māori.  The first are the institutional responses to the legal requirements of government institutions to accord justice to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (see Te Puni Kokiri, 2001). The second arise where Māori scholars have pulled on practices and ideas within their iwi and hapū to develop a Māori centred research philosophy, that in turn has created a distinctively Māori research ethics.

I made this argument at a recent conference, in a paper to honour the late Barry Smith. Barry, in reviewing ethics applications and creating ethics policy could articulate how to negotiate both with his usual insight, grace and wit and aloha. Without him to drive developments we must think carefully about how to follow his example of synthesising the best of ethical approaches to advance Māori wellbeing and rangatiratanga (roughly translated as indigenous self-determination, see Durie, 1988).

So what is the history of research ethics approaches to research with Māori? First, the radical 1984 Labour government’s privatisation agenda enshrined ‘the principles of the Treaty of Wāitangi’ that put in critical pieces of legislation to ensure continued Māori support. The first, and most important of these Treaty clauses was in section 9 of the 1986 State-Owned Enterprise Act.

s9 nothing in the Act permitted the Crown to act in a manner that was inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Wāitangi.

When the government inevitably breached this section, a judicial review case allowed the Court of Appeal (at the time New Zealand’s highest court) to set out its view of the relationship between the Crown and Māori. (New Zealand Māori Council v Attorney-General 1 NZLR 641, (1987) 6 NZAR 353). Later cases set out that consultation had to be conducted with an open mind, and Māori were to be given complete information about the subject. Wellington International Airport Ltd v Air NZ [1991] 1 NZLR 671 (Court of Appeal)

The case indicated that the courts expected any government institution (with a Treaty clause in its enabling legislation) to ‘consult’ – to the satisfaction of a court – with Māori individuals and groups who may be affected by its policies or practices. So all government agencies have since been on notice that they must consult with Māori fully on decisions that might affect Māori, and not to do so could lead to a judicial review of their decision-making by a court. Moreover, any Māori individual could also ask the Wāitangi Tribunal (an ongoing political commission of inquiry into Treaty breaches) to review a government action or inaction which breached the principles of the Treaty of Wāitangi.

Due to these incentives, government agencies got into the practice of consulting with Māori organisations on anything that might be of interest or affect Māori. So both the health sector ethics committees and the University ethics committees developed policies that asked applicants to demonstrate they had ‘consulted’ with Māori.

At the same time, a more humane approach to Māori research ethics was also being developed – it arose from Māori scholars grappling with how to inject Te Ao Māori (literally, the Māori world) into the systems around them. Models included, Te Whare Tapa Whā (Durie, 1984), The Meihana model (Pitama, 2007) and the Hui model (Lacey, 2011), to name but a few. In all of these models, there is a wealth of indigenous knowledge that is also discussed beautifully in Te Ara Tika (Smith, 2010), a guide to reviewing research involving Māori, that arose from Barry’s concerns around gaps in knowledge about Māori and research ethics.

So there is an objective legal risk driving consultation with Māori over research on the one hand, and on the other, a philosophically normative Māori centred ethics, drawn from a Māori-centric approach. They can sit awkwardly together for researchers and reviewers. For instance, the two approaches are often combined as though they are one – so that researchers are left thinking they are legally required to adopt Māori normative ethics prescribed in the scholarly models of Māori research, and so do not listen to the tikanga (protocols) of the local community with whom they are researching. Alternatively, researchers may comply with the spirit of the law and do consultation – but as the government has proved time and time again; meeting the judicial test for consultation can still leave many feeling deeply unheard.

This leaves non-Māori, and I have seen this as a Māori research consultant for my University, in what Tolich called, ‘Pakeha [non-Māori] Paralysis’ – that is, paralysed by Māori concerns and thus avoiding doing research with Māori. Indeed I have counselled academics to avoid Māori centred research because they do not have skills to do it.

The deeper problem is that non-Māori researchers don’t have the resources to research appropriately with Māori. And Māori don’t, and should not have to have the capacity to serve the needs of non-Māori researchers.

I have pointed out the incentives for ethics review for Māori because I believe they can show us how to solve the problem. The law states that ethics reviewers must take seriously the voices of Māori in the research, but taking that seriously is not to follow the dictates of legal cases about consultation – those cases were decided about events unrelated to research or ethics. Nor must ethics committees think particular Māori philosophies of research must apply, since there are many more communities that have their own philosophies, and it is those local philosophies that should be privileged.

If we look to the underlying principles of both Māori research principles and legal cases, they combine to suggest we must take seriously the idea that research engages with Māori when it takes seriously the voices of the communities and participants involved in, or around the research. That is, the researchers should be seeking and assisting Māori voices to be heard in the research, if those Māori communities and individuals wish to be heard. To meet the legal needs, and to ensure Māori are given rangatiratanga, I suggest the appropriate question for a researcher to ask themselves (or be asked by the review committee) is ‘how are you making it possible for the Māori individuals and communities to communicate and participate with you in the project should they wish?

References

Durie, M. (1998). Te Mana Te Kawanatanga: The politics of Maori self-determination. Auckland; New York: Oxford University Press.

Durie, M. (2001). Mauri Ora: The Dynamics of Māori Health.

Pitama, S., Robertson, P., Cram, F., Gillies, M., Huria, T., & dallas-katoa, W. (2007). Meihana Model: A Clinical Assessment Framework. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 36.

Lacey, C., Huria, T. B.,Lutz, & Gilles, M. P., Suzanne. (2011). The Hui Process: a framework to enhance the doctor–patient relationship with Māori. New Zealand Medical Journal, 124(1347).

Smith, B., Reynolds, P., Russell, K.,& et.al. (2010). TE ARA TIKA Guidelines for Māori Research Ethics : A framework for researchers and ethics committee members. Health Research Council of New Zealand.

Te Puni KokirI (Ministry or Māori Development) (2001) He tirohanga o kawa ki te Tiriti o Waitangi: A guide to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi as expressed by the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal. Wellington, N.Z.: https://www.tpk.govt.nz/documents/download/179/tpk-treatyprinciples-2001-en.pdf

Tolich, M. (2002). Pakeha” paralysis”: Cultural safety for those researching the general population of Aotearoa. Social Policy Journal of New Zealand, 164-178.

For a good guide to the history and impact of Treaty clauses in legislation see
Palmer, M. (2008). The Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand’s law and constitution. Wellington [N.Z.]: Victoria University Press.

This post may be cited as:

Te Ata o Tu MacDonald, L. (4 December 2019) A preliminary geneaology of research ethics review and Māori. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/a-preliminary-geneaology-of-research-ethics-review-and-maori

Inclusion of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse populations in Clinical Trials:0

 

Nik Zeps
AHRECS Consultant

Clinical trials have enormous value to society as they provide the most robust means of working out whether or not particular treatments used to improve the health of our population work or not. Governments have a stated objective to increase participation in clinical trials based upon a series of assumptions that extend beyond their utility as a means to derive the highest level of reliable evidence about the efficacy and safety of interventions. One of these is that those people who are included derive a tangible benefit from doing so. Whilst this may not be true in all cases, after all up to 50% of people may receive an inferior treatment by definition, there is the potential for people to derive individual benefit, and it is often stated that those involved in a trial receive a higher standard of care than those not included. Certainly, the additional testing and closer scrutiny of people on a trial may equate in some instances to better care, but this should not be seen as a major driver as it could be argued that equitable care should be available as a universal right. A less discussed benefit is the connectedness and satisfaction that people may derive from making a tangible contribution to society through participation in clinical research. Furthermore, there may be indeterminate peer group benefits even if an individual does not benefit.

In an Australian study Smith et al (1) found that CALD people whose preferred language was not-English (PLNE) had the lowest participation rates in clinical trials. Whilst CALD people whose preferred language was English (PLE) had greater levels of enrollment than the PLNE group, they were still underrepresented by population. This has been described across the world and is identified as a pressing concern (2).  Understanding why this is the case is important for a number of reasons. In multiculturally diverse countries like Australia, testing interventions where a significant proportion of the population are not included could result in evidence that is not applicable to those people. This spans across biological differences which may be relevant to drug efficacy or toxicity through to interventions such as screening that may fail to be useful in those populations. Where there is evidence that participation in a clinical trial may present specific advantages there is also the issue of injustice through exclusion of a particular group or groups of persons. Certainly, from an implementation perspective, not including a diverse group of participants and analyzing for cultural and behavioral acceptability may mean that even if an intervention has merit it fails to be taken up.

The reasons for non-inclusion are likely more complex than those of language barriers, although having protocols for clinical trials that specifically exclude people who don’t have higher levels of proficiency in English do not help. It would seem that the language barrier could be soluble through providing greater resources to enable translation services, particular in areas with a clear need for this. Certainly, multi-national trials already have PICFs in multiple languages and these could be readily deployed through use of innovative technologies including eConsent processes.[1] Funders of clinical trials could make it a requirement for such inclusivity and back it up through provision of specific funding for this in any grants they award. Legal means to enforce this, whilst possible, are unlikely to drive systemic change and could have the unintended consequence of making it harder to do any trials at all in an environment already subject to extreme financial pressures.

However, a major reason for low levels of participation in clinical trials may be attributed to equity of access to clinical services in the first place. It is hard to recruit people from the general population into clinical trials, but even harder if specific members of the population don’t come to the health service in the first place. There is relatively little research on this topic and it would seem logical to do this as a priority in parallel with examining why people fail to participate in clinical trials due to language barriers. Perhaps clinical trials are simply the canary alerting us to broader inequities that need greater research and investment. Research into solutions to these inequities is accordingly a priority and may solve clinical trial participation rates as a consequence.

References

  1. Smith A, Agar M, Delaney G, Descallar J, Dobell-Brown K, Grand M, et al. Lower trial participation by culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) cancer patients is largely due to language barriers. Asia Pac J Clin Oncol. 2018;14(1):52-60.
  2. Clark LT, Watkins L, Pina IL, Elmer M, Akinboboye O, Gorham M, et al. Increasing Diversity in Clinical Trials: Overcoming Critical Barriers. Curr Probl Cardiol. 2019;44(5):148-72.

Nik Zeps participated in the CCV forum at the COSA ASM. A full report of the workshop and research by the CCV and MCCabe centre is forthcoming.

[1] https://ctiq.com.au/wp-content/uploads/eConsent-in-Clinical-Trials-compressed.pdf

This post may be cited as:

Zeps, N. (4 December 2019) Inclusion of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse populations in Clinical Trials. Research Ethics Monthly. Retrieved from: https://ahrecs.com/human-research-ethics/inclusion-of-culturally-and-linguistically-diverse-populations-in-clinical-trials

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