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International bioethicists meet

July 26, 2010 - SINGAPORE

The 8th Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies and 10th World Congress of Bioethics bring together bioethicists from around the globe to debate ethical, social, legal, philosophical and other issues arising in both health care and the biological sciences. Informed consent and organ donations are seen as pressing issues of the moment. The United States healthcare system, portrayed as a bioethical issue by some experts, could also find its way into the debate at the biennial gathering.

The issue of informed consent has been at the heart of bioethics since its beginnings, with a particularly lively set of discussions about HIV prevention studies in Africa. In a recent American Journal of Bioethics article, researchers S. Matthew Liao, Steve Clarke and Mark Sheehan argue that participants in some clinical trials are at risk of being harmed and sometimes are seriously harmed as a result of not being provided with available, relevant risk information. They describe the situation as unacceptable, and say there is a moral duty to disclose all adverse clinical trial results to participants in clinical trials. On Aug 13 Beijing announced it had launched an overhaul targeting illegal organ transplants after reports surfaced that some hospitals were illegally doing organ surgeries for foreigners. The regulations ban organ trade, organ trafficking and 'transplant tourism'; for foreigners and establish a national organ donation system that includes deceased and living donors. Official estimates indicate that 2 million Chinese need organ transplants each year, but only 20,000 operations are performed because of a severe shortage of donors. The report said some hospitals sold organs to foreigners, despite the shortage, as a lucrative business. A new bioethics association in the United States came out in support of proposals by President Barak Obama for healthcare reform, stating in August that "there is no morally defensible reason why some Americans get excellent medical care at costs they can afford and other Americans lose their homes or go into bankruptcy attempting to secure treatment for a seriously ill loved one." The statement from the 60-member Association of Bioethics Program Directors adds that the "current proposals being debated in Congress all go a long way toward making health care in America more just." According to the organizers, other areas that require bioethetical consideration are human cloning and stem cell research, human tissue research, research involving human subjects, genetic testing and genetic research, personal information in biomedical research, the donation of human eggs for research and human-animal combinations for research. The Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies is a biennial event since 1996 and is held in conjunction with the World Congress of the International Association of Bioethics. The first meeting was held in San Francisco, California, USA, at the invitation of the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission and the French Comité Consultatif National d'Ethique pour les Sciences de la Vie et de la Santé. The World Health Organization provides the permanent secretariat for the Global Summit.

International Association of Bioethics

Queries on the 8th Global Summit of National Bioethics Advisory Bodies may be directed to:

10th World Congress of Bioethics

Bioethics Advisory Committee-Singapore

Bioethicists defend health care proposals (Star-Tribune 11 Aug 2009)

China overhauls illegal organ transplants (China View 13 Aug 2009)

The Duty to Disclose Adverse Clinical Trial Results

Date written/update: 2010-07-26