• The Ebola Clinical Trials: a Precedent for Research Ethics in Disasters

      Calain, P (BMJ Publishing Group, 2016-08-29)
      The West African Ebola epidemic has set in motion a collective endeavour to conduct accelerated clinical trials, testing unproven but potentially lifesaving interventions in the course of a major public health crisis. This unprecedented effort was supported by the recommendations of an ad hoc ethics panel convened in August 2014 by the WHO. By considering why and on what conditions the exceptional circumstances of the Ebola epidemic justified the use of unproven interventions, the panel's recommendations have challenged conventional thinking about therapeutic development and clinical research ethics. At the same time, unanswered ethical questions have emerged, in particular: (i) the specification of exceptional circumstances, (ii) the specification of unproven interventions, (iii) the goals of interventional research in terms of individual versus collective interests, (iv) the place of adaptive trial designs and (v) the exact meaning of compassionate use with unapproved interventions. Examination of these questions, in parallel with empirical data from research sites, will help build pragmatic foundations for disaster research ethics. Furthermore, the Ebola clinical trials signal an evolution in the current paradigms of therapeutic research, beyond the case of epidemic emergencies.
    • Research Ethics and International Epidemic Response: The Case of Ebola and Marburg Hemmorrhagic Fevers

      Calain, P; Fiore, N; Poncin, M; Hurst, S; Medecins Sans Frontieres (Oxford University Press, 2009-08-01)
      Outbreaks of filovirus (Ebola and Marburg) hemorrhagic fevers in Africa are typically the theater of rescue activities involving international experts and agencies tasked with reinforcing national authorities in clinical management, biological diagnosis, sanitation, public health surveillance and coordination. These outbreaks can be seen to be as a paradigm for ethical issues posed by by epidemic emergencies, through the convergence of such themes as: isolation and quarantine, privacy and confidentiality and the interpretation of ethical norms across different ethnocultural settings. With an emphasis on the boundaries between public health investigations and research, this article reviews specific challenges, past practices and current normative documents relevant to the application of ethical standards in the course of outbreaks of filovirus hemorrhagic fevers. Aside from the commonly identified issues of informed consent, and institutional review process, we argue for more clarify over the specification of which communities are expected to share benefits, and we advocate for the use of collective definitions of duty to care and standard of care. We propose new elaborations around existing normative instruments, and we suggest some pathways toward more comprehensive approaches to the ethics of research in outbreak situations.