Ethics of Research Involving Human Subjects and Biosamples

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21 February 2019
Although bioethics is well recognized as an effective tool to address ethical conflicts in medical treatments and research, further capacity building to address such issues is needed in the Arab region to reflect on the ethical dimension of advances in science and technology, and to promote informed and transparent public policies that can enhance the public’s health.
Ethics of Research Involving Human Subjects and Biosamples
In 2016, Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health issued a new Decree regarding research ethics related to the human subject. This Decree defined the general principles governing the creation, role, and functioning of local Research Ethics Committees (REC) in universities and teaching hospitals in Lebanon. To date, there are 25 RECs at universities and teaching hospitals approved by the Ministry.

Against this backdrop, and with the objective to enhance the capacity of universities and hospitals’ RECs members to formulate and review research proposals in a way s to ensure the highest ethics standard, UNESCO Beirut organized on 14-16 February 2019 a pilot workshop at the University Saint-Esprit of Kaslik (USEK) titled: “Enhancing the national mechanisms in Research ethics”. The workshop, organized in close collaboration with the Lebanese National Bioethics Committee and the World Health Organization, aimed at explore ways to enhance the capacity of RECs and stakeholders in overall research ethics related to human subject.

Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Dr Seiko Sugita, UNESCO Beirut’s Programme Specialist of Human&Social Sciences, said: “Founded on the belief that there can be no peace without the intellectual and moral solidarity of humankind, UNESCO has initiated a discussion on the link between ethics and science, stressing that scientific development should not outstrip our ability to weigh it critically against the only standard that matters: humanity. Apart from the fact that ethical issues related to the advances in life sciences and their applications were and still are highly important, the depth and extent of their roots in the cultural, philosophical and religious bedrocks of various human communities were reason enough for UNESCO, the only organization whose fields of competence include the social and human sciences, true to its ethical vocation, to take the lead in this initiative”. Dr Sugita added: “In our collective efforts and responsibility towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a question of equitable distribution of the benefits of the fruit of science as well as “health wealth” to address inequalities within and among nations is a central in the debate of 2030 development agenda. Bioethics offers a normative framework to explore this question. Our present workshop is a pilot nature in the region aiming to promote research ethics related to human subject and biosamples among Lebanese institutions and experts”.

The workshop gathered around 40 participants, including representatives from the Ministry of Public Health, members of the National Bioethics Committee, researchers, doctors, and members of RECs. It provided an interactive platform where participants exchanged thoughts and shared their concerns about the legal and ethical challenges they encounter in their research and work in the RECs. BioBanques and Biosamples and their legal and ethical frame as well as the conspiracy of some medical institutions was on the top of the debate