Qatar urgently needs a National Ethics Committee (NEC) for medical research, with representation from government and non-governmental bodies, a Qatari geneticist recommended yesterday.
“The NEC can strengthen research ethics among different institutes in Qatar and complement what already exists,” Shafallah Medical Genetic Center’s (SMGC) Institutional Review Board (IRB) chair Dr Khalid al-Ali said.
A NEC can facilitate enforcement of decision making, domestic and international regulations and guidelines, building awareness among the public, seeking external auditing and accreditations, and hosting local and international debates.
Dr al-Ali, also a member of Unesco’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology, and Qatar University’s assistant professor of human genetics and Foundation Program director, was speaking at the opening of SMGC’s IRB training workshop.
“The NEC should expand the ethics work beyond research and medical practice,” he suggested while observing collaboration is needed from already established NECs in the region and international organisations.
Different organisations should collaborate with each other to avoid redundancy and conflict, and local codes comply with international codes.
Speaking on the ‘Current situation and future challenges of research in Qatar,’ Dr al-Ali called for incorporating research ethics as a part of university courses, and creating a network of research ethics committees in Qatar and the region.
“There should be awareness campaigns, in all universities and research institutes in Qatar, about research ethics and the committees concerned, and officials also need to support the concept of research ethics in the conduct of research,” he urged.
Asserting that human research protection is a shared responsibility, Dr al-Ali observed that research involving human subjects has increased in Qatar and concerns, however, have been expressed regarding the adequacy of ethics review system in the country.
“SMGC is committed to ensuring that all human subject research is engaged in accordance with the ethical principles stated in major international statutes,” research section head Dr Fouad al-Shaban stated.
The basic ethical principles are respect for persons, beneficence and justice, and due importance is attached to steps such as informed consent, risk/benefit assessment, and process of selecting subjects, he maintained while adding that the IRB may approve or disapprove a research project.
WHO official Dr Pierre Zalloua pointed out that lot of IRBs formed last year have been changing gradually from a reactionary body to a guiding role.
“An IRB’s role is to help guide researchers and not to make hurdles for researchers,” clarified Dr Zalloua, who along with his colleague Dr Joanna El Kassis, is anchoring the workshop.
Representatives from Sidra Medical and Research Center, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Qatar National Research Fund, Hamad Medical Corporation, Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs and Qatar University are participating in the two-day event.
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