Canada Research Chair in Bioethics
Tier 1 - 2005-07-01
519-661-2111 ext. 80090
Exploring the ethics of health research.
The research is promoting excellent research and the protection of Canadians in research by re-examining and redefining the moral foundations of health research.
Preserving Trust in Health Research
Health research in Canada offers unparalleled opportunities for the development of new treatments for the improvement of health. But with these opportunities come numerous questions on research ethics. Canada Research Chair Dr. Charles Weijer (pronounced VAY-er) is engaged in formulating answers to these questions and in the process is helping ensure that Canadians who participate in research are protected as much as possible.
Research can harm as well as benefit communities. For example, members of communities involved in a research study where geneticists are finding clues to the causes of cancer, asthma, and diabetes, may encounter discrimination as carriers of "disease-causing genes." So how can we best protect them? Dr. Weijer is calling for a new relationship between researchers and communities, one of partnership.
Then there is perhaps the most divisive question health research ethics, which asks: What obligations do researchers owe research participants? A vocal few have claimed that all researchers are required to do is seek the consent of participants and not exploit them. Dr. Weijer, however, is offering a richer view of the relationship, one that requires researchers to act only in the best interests of study participants and that patients must feel confident that their treatment is every bit as good as what they would otherwise receive.
And finally, a recent issue for health researchers relates to research in the emergency room: Research is the best hope for developing better treatments for acutely ill patients, but the very sick often can't consent to research participation and next of kin may not be able to consent on their behalf. Can research proceed without consent? Dr. Weijer concludes that research without consent is possible, but only if limits are imposed on patient risk. In this way, research developing new treatments for acutely ill patients can proceed, but only with strict protections for research participants.