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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

(China, Australia) Against the use and publication of contemporary unethical research: the case of Chinese transplant research (Papers: Wendy C Higgins, et al | July 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on July 9, 2020


This July 2020 paper examines the argument for and against the publication of new, or retraction of old research outputs, where the work utilised organs from executed prisoners.  This isn’t just about an intensely captive relationship.

Recent calls for retraction of a large body of Chinese transplant research and of Dr Jiankui He’s gene editing research has led to renewed interest in the question of publication, retraction and use of unethical biomedical research. In Part 1 of this paper, we briefly review the now well-established consequentialist and deontological arguments for and against the use of unethical research. We argue that, while there are potentially compelling justifications for use under some circumstances, these justifications fail when unethical practices are ongoing—as in the case of research involving transplantations in which organs have been procured unethically from executed prisoners. Use of such research displays a lack of respect and concern for the victims and undermines efforts to deter unethical practices. Such use also creates moral taint and renders those who use the research complicit in continuing harm. In Part 2, we distinguish three dimensions of ‘non-use’ of unethical research: non-use of published unethical research, non-publication, and retraction and argue that all three types of non-use should be upheld in the case of Chinese transplant research. Publishers have responsibilities to not publish contemporary unethical biomedical research, and where this has occurred, to retract publications. Failure to retract the papers implicitly condones the research, while uptake of the research through citations rewards researchers and ongoing circulation of the data in the literature facilitates subsequent use by researchers, policymakers and clinicians.

Higgins, WC., Rogers, W.A., Ballantyne, A., Lipworth, W. (2020)  Against the use and publication of contemporary unethical research: the case of Chinese transplant research. Journal of Medical Ethics. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2019-106044

(US) Ethics questions swirl around historic Parkinson’s experiment – STAT (Sharon Begley | May 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on May 30, 2020

A secretive experiment revealed this week, in which neurosurgeons transplanted brain cells into a patient with Parkinson’s disease, made medical history. It was the first time such “reprogrammed” cells, produced from stem cells that had been created in the lab from the man’s own skin cells, had been used to try to treat the degenerative brain disease. But it was also a bioethics iceberg, with some issues in plain sight and many more lurking.

This story raises an interesting bioethics question.  Should the wealthy be able to fund research, with a  view to receiving the treatment it develops?

In 2013, the soon-to-be patient, George Lopez, gave $2 million to underwrite research on cells in lab dishes and rats that was required to show that the surgery might be safe and possibly even effective. Lopez, a former physician and the wealthy founder of a medical equipment company, also paid for the legal work required to get Food and Drug Administration approval for the two surgeries. Cells were implanted on the left side of Lopez’s brain in September 2017 and the right side in March 2018.

“When individuals paying to fund research leading to a therapy are also the first to receive it, there are concerns,” said Brian Fiske, vice president for research at the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which funds research on Parkinson’s.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

(China, Australia) Journals have retracted or flagged more than 40 papers from China that appear to have used organ transplants from executed prisoners – Retraction Watch (Ivan Oransky | April 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on May 29, 2020

Journals have retracted 30 papers, and added expressions of concern to 13 more, because the research likely involved organs from executed prisoners in China.

The issue surfaced as early as 2016, and two of the retractions occurred in 2017, but all of the other retractions, and all of the expressions of concern, happened after a February 2019 paper by Wendy Rogers of Macquarie University, in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues calling for the retraction of more than 400 papers

reporting research based on use of organs from executed prisoners, and an international summit to develop future policy for handling Chinese transplant research.

Read the rest of this discussion piece

Reconsidering Dynamic Consent in Biobanking: Ethical and Political Consequences of Transforming Research Participants Into ICT Users (Papers: Alexandra Soulier | June 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on May 14, 2020

Biobanks are not new. However, the scope of their application is growing, especially in genomics. Biobanks are also currently being reorganized to enable more genomic samples to be made available for different types of studies. Some future uses of the biobanks cannot be anticipated.

Genomics, Bioinformatics, Real-time systems, Internet, Information and communication technology, Law

Soulier, A. (2019) “Reconsidering Dynamic Consent in Biobanking: Ethical and Political Consequences of Transforming Research Participants Into ICT Users,” in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 62-70, June 2019.