Friday, August 01, 2008

Do We Need More Bioethicists?

The nation is adrift when it comes to bioethics, according to statements from several prominent medical officials, who have called on the National Institutes of Health to put forward a comprehensive plan to train more bioethicists. Without that effort, they warn, public confidence in medical research and practice could deteriorate.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair, Department of Bioethics, The Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, said, "We need a strategic plan to develop bioethicists. We need to commit ourselves to doing something about bioethics in a sustained way-not just here today, gone tomorrow."

Ezekiel also argues that the USA should also increase support for research on bioethical issues such as improving informed-consent procedures and whether research subjects should be paid, Ezekiel argued. He articulates a fourfold strategy for increased NIH support of bioethics:

(1) educate and mentor sufficient numbers of producer bioethicists in well-designed postdoctoral programs;

(2) support junior researchers with an increase in established K awards targeted at bioethics;

(3) commit sufficient resources to ensure high-quality empirical and analytical bioethics research; and

(4) develop dedicated study sections composed of qualified bioethicists to review bioethics-related grant proposals.

He also recommends an office, center, or authoritative body within the NIH accountable for bioethics-related activities to develop a strategic plan and to be accountable for generating high-quality research and scholarship.

Dr. Judith Salerno, former Deputy Director of the National Institute on Aging, has called for leadership to develop "a national agenda for bioethics training and research." At present, she charged, there is only a "crazy quilt of programs and courses in bioethics."

The full article can accessed in the journal Academic Medicine, here.

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