At the International ABR Seminar on Universal Health Coverage (Singapore, 28-29 January 2019), Katharine Wright, the Assistant Director of the UK-based Nuffield Council on Bioethics, will discuss the ethical imperative of ‘preparedness’ in research during global health emergencies.
Research in global health emergencies: the ethical imperative of ‘preparedness’
The UK-based Nuffield Council on Bioethics is currently half way through a two year project exploring the ethical challenges encountered when conducting research in global health emergencies – looking not only at the ‘micro’ ethical aspects of research such as study design and review, but also the crucial ‘macro’ questions around who has power, whose voices are heard, and who benefits from any research undertaken. One of the key themes emerging in responses to the Council’s international call for evidence is that of ‘preparedness’: while it may be the sudden and disruptive nature of an emergency that particularly challenges existing research norms, many emergencies are nevertheless foreseeable to a degree. This highlights the ethical imperative of improving levels of preparedness in many different domains: in terms of research capacity, community engagement, and critically in health systems resilience. Such resilience is fundamental in developing an evidence-based response to health emergencies that is steered by local interests and meets local needs.
is Assistant Director at the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, responsible for the Council’s 2017-2019 inquiry into ethical research conduct in global health emergencies. Her background is in health policy, law and ethics, and before joining the Nuffield Council in 2007, she worked in the UK House of Commons, the English Department of Health, and the English National Health Service. Her work at the Council has included consideration of ethical issues arising in dementia; the donation of all forms of bodily material for treatment or research; and the involvement of children and young people in clinical research.