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Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Friday afternoon’s funny – Research during a disaster0

Posted by Admin in on January 10, 2020
 

Cartoon by Don Mayne www.researchcartoons.com
Full-size image for printing (right mouse click and save file)

In the context of more frequent and severe climate-change-fuelled natural disasters, researchers need to be empathetic and respectful of the context in which our projects are conducted.  AHRECS sympathies and best wishes go out to anyone affected by the current mega-fires or other disasters.

China Uses DNA to Map Faces, With Help From the West – New York Times ( Sui-Lee Wee & Paul Mozur | December 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on January 9, 2020
 

TUMXUK, China — In a dusty city in the Xinjiang region on China’s western frontier, the authorities are testing the rules of science.

Does your institutional guidance material speak to situations such as this, including secondary use that could present a risk to a population of people?  Do you have mechanisms to manage institutional conflicts of interest?  If not, this story highlights why such arrangements could be important.

With a million or more ethnic Uighurs and others from predominantly Muslim minority groups swept up in detentions across Xinjiang, officials in Tumxuk have gathered blood samples from hundreds of Uighurs — part of a mass DNA collection effort dogged by questions about consent and how the data will be used.
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In Tumxuk, at least, there is a partial answer: Chinese scientists are trying to find a way to use a DNA sample to create an image of a person’s face.
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The technology, which is also being developed in the United States and elsewhere, is in the early stages of development and can produce rough pictures good enough only to narrow a manhunt or perhaps eliminate suspects. But given the crackdown in Xinjiang, experts on ethics in science worry that China is building a tool that could be used to justify and intensify racial profiling and other state discrimination against Uighurs.
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Read the rest of this discussion piece

Misrepresenting “Usual Care” in Research: An Ethical and Scientific Error (Papers: Ruth Macklin, Charles Natanson | January 2020)0

Posted by Admin in on January 7, 2020
 

Abstract
Comparative effectiveness studies, referred to here as “usual-care” trials, seek to compare current medical practices for the same medical condition. Such studies are presumed to be safe and involve only minimal risks. However, that presumption may be flawed if the trial design contains “unusual” care, resulting in potential risks to subjects and inaccurately informed consent. Three case studies described here did not rely on clinical evidence to ascertain contemporaneous practice. As a result, the investigators drew inaccurate conclusions, misinformed research participants, and subjects’ safety was compromised. Before approving usual-care protocols, IRBs and scientific review committees should evaluate the quality and completeness of information documenting usual-care practices. Guidance from governmental oversight agencies regarding evidence-based documentation of current clinical practice could prevent similar occurrences in future usual-care trials. Accurate information is necessary to ensure that trials comply with government regulations that require minimizing research risks to subjects and accurate informed consent documents.

KEYWORDS:
Human subjects research; IRB (Institutional Review Board); informed consent; risk/benefit analysis

Macklin, R. & Natanson, C. (2019) Misrepresenting “Usual Care” in Research: An Ethical and Scientific Error. Americaan Journal of Bioethics. 20(1):31-39. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2019.1687777.
Publisher: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15265161.2019.1687777

(China/Gene) Chinese scientist who produced genetically altered babies sentenced to 3 years in jail – Science (Dennis Normile | December 2019)0

Posted by Admin in on January 5, 2020
 

He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who stunned the world last year by announcing he had helped produce genetically edited babies, has been found guilty of conducting “illegal medical practices” and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Given the degree of recklessness and premeditation, the lifetime health effects and that the genetic modifications are inheritable, some may feel an even harsher sentence would have been warranted.  Nevertheless, it is welcome to see the Chinese court impose large fines and prison sentences.

A court in Shenzhen found that He and two collaborators forged ethical review documents and misled doctors into unknowingly implanting gene-edited embryos into two women, according to Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency. One mother gave birth to twin girls in November 2018; it has not been made clear when the third baby was born. The court ruled that the three defendants had deliberately violated national regulations on biomedical research and medical ethics, and rashly applied gene-editing technology to human reproductive medicine.
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All three pleaded guilty, according to Xinhua. The court also fined He, formerly of the Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) and known as JK to friends and colleagues, 3 million Chinese yuan ($429,000). His collaborators were identified as Zhang Renli, of a medical institution in Guangdong province, and Qin Jinzhou, from a Shenzhen medical institution; Zhang received a 2-year prison sentence and was fined 1 million yuan, according to Xinhua, whereas Qin was given 18 months in prison with a 2-year reprieve, and a 500,000 yuan fine.
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