Exploring the Ethics of Health Research
Health research offers unparalleled opportunities for the development of new treatments that can improve people’s health around the world. Despite the importance of health research, it cannot be conducted without taking human costs into consideration. Ethical issues pervade health research. Continued exploration of the ethical foundations of health research is needed in order to meet the challenges faced by scientists and to preserve public trust in science.
Dr. Charles Weijer, Canada Research Chair in Bioethics, is researching knowledge translation and trust in science.
Knowledge translation research draws upon methods from the social sciences to turn evidence into improved health outcomes. However, since the norms that govern medical research and social science research can sometimes conflict, there can be disagreements as to which norms should apply to health knowledge translation research.
While the importance of trust in science is frequently discussed, it is poorly understood. Public mistrust in science can have a measurable impact on public health, as concerns with vaccine safety have shown. Restoring and preserving public trust in science requires a firm theoretical foundation that can sustain enforceable ethical obligations.
Weijer’s research has already addressed ethical challenges involved in randomized trials and has resulted in better guidelines to protect individuals and communities in health research in Canada and abroad. His new research will help address ethical challenges posed by social science methods that are involved in knowledge translation research.