FOR National Ethics Committee
What will happen to all the research and data collected with regard
to the psychosocial impact of the tsunami on Sri Lankans? How will
they be used? Should Sri Lanka allow a stream of people to walk
into any camp, any area affected by the tsunami and question anyone
National Ethics Committee is needed to vet and approve medical and
health research where human subjects are involved with respect to
a national disaster, says Prof. Susirith Mendis, Dean of the Faculty
of Medicine, Ruhunu University.
is in view of the fact that after a natural disaster there is a
possibility of support activities and research purposes being duplicated
leading to the misuse and also abuse of the privacy of the vulnerable
populations or communities, he explains.
research ethics are an important restraint when conducting research
using vulnerable populations or communities and the World Medical
Association guidelines are very clear in this regard, he says, adding
that children, women, pregnant mothers, psychologically affected
people, those with psychiatric problems and also socio-economically
deprived people fall under "vulnerable populations and communities".
can conclude that the tsunami-affected people, those living along
the battered coastal belt including fishermen fall into this category,"
says Prof. Mendis. "When you are vulnerable you don't have
the required mental capacity to take decisions for yourself. Your
decision-making capacity is likely to be affected. Therefore, intrusion
into their privacy making interventional research can create a situation
where they are either coaxed, coerced or bribed to become subjects
in research and in a process during which they may in fact take
decisions detrimental to themselves, their families and their communities."
this data collection, for what, he asks, citing an incident related
by colleagues of a woman, most probably in a state of shock, who
had obviously been pestered so much that on seeing people coming
towards her rushed out with a pole to attack them.
has to be compassion and also people need to be given enough time
to recover, stresses Prof. Mendis. Ethically approved guidelines
for data collection are vital, while the methodology of data collection
and the need for it should be looked into, he says.
to fears that such a body would become bureaucratized and centralized
and prevent urgent needs of the communities being looked after,
he stresses that in view of the large number of international groups
and people coming into the country, an Ethics Committee is crucial.
The greater likelihood would be that with an Ethics Committee, the
interests of the vulnerable populations would be ensured.