Ethics is a discipline that is central to health care professionals, educators and researchers said experts at the 14th National Health Sciences Research Symposium on ethical issues held at Aga Khan University on November 5th.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Farhat Moazam, Chairperson, Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture, SIUT and the keynote speaker pointed out that the Pakistani health care professionals must move from being passive, uncritical recipients of biomedical ethics to active, thinking participants within this field. Biomedical ethics was introduced by health care providers in Pakistan, a simple adoption of a western model that evolved in a different social and economic context. Hence it has little relevance to the needs of local medical practitioners and does not help them resolve the ethical dilemmas they face every day. There has been a peculiar focus on ethics around research rather than clinical ethics in Pakistan, despite the fact that the majority of health care professionals are involved in clinical ethics, and just a handful in research. Also, reconciliation is needed between ‘secular’ contemporary bioethics and Islamic bioethics; a resolution of ideas rather than a war between morals. Bioethics in Pakistan should be re-structured rather than re-invented for it is a vocation rather than a profession.
Dr Rashid Jooma, Chairman, National Bioethics Committee spoke about legislation on bioethics in Pakistan and the relationship between health professional and pharmaceuticals companies. “Physicians have to be very careful about the way they deal with pharmaceutical companies as they have to keep the welfare of their patients first in their minds,” he emphasised.
While quality is about meeting standards, ethics is about internalising values, in particular the core values of compassion and caring, fundamental to the medical and nursing professions. Dr Murad M. Khan, Chair, Psychiatry, AKU said that these core values are under threat and result in patient dissatisfaction in today’s highly commercialised, profit-driven world.
Ethical and moral dilemmas pervade the practice of organ transplantation as pointed out by Arif Hasan, Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon, The Freeman Hospital Newcastle, UK. “The twin issues of informed consent and confidentiality have been at the heart of transplantation since its inception and continue to be challenged by rapid technological advances,” he added.
In the research session, the discussion focused on how all reputable institutions around the world give importance to the implementation of guidelines and policies in order to ensure that an organisation’s reputation is not marred by acts of plagiarism, misconduct or unsafe research practices. Unfortunately Pakistan does not follow the same standards. To safeguard the research community and to meet international standards, awareness about responsible research best practice need to be regularly highlighted.
Speakers also stressed that ethical review committees, institutional review boards, and other national mechanisms should be constituted to protect study participants in Pakistan. This is becoming increasingly important as the protection of participants in clinical trials is being recognised as both a national and an international concern. Pakistan needs a national forum needs where the ethical implications of health research and health care practices in the country can be discussed.
Rasool Sarang, Assistant Manager Media, Department of Public Affairs, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, on +92 21 3486 3920 or firstname.lastname@example.org