• 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.
    • 'He who helps the guilty, shares the crime'? INGOs, moral narcissism and complicity in wrongdoing

      Buth, P; de Gryse, B; Healy, S; Hoedt, V; Newell, T; Pintaldi, G; Del Valle, H; Sheather, JC; Wong, S (BMJ Publishing Group, 2018-03-17)
      Humanitarian organisations often work alongside those responsible for serious wrongdoing. In these circumstances, accusations of moral complicity are sometimes levelled at decision makers. These accusations can carry a strong if unfocused moral charge and are frequently the source of significant moral unease. In this paper, we explore the meaning and usefulness of complicity and its relation to moral accountability. We also examine the impact of concerns about complicity on the motivation of humanitarian staff and the risk that complicity may lead to a retreat into moral narcissism. Moral narcissism is the possibility that where humanitarian actors inadvertently become implicated in wrongdoing, they may focus more on their image as self-consciously good actors than on the interests of potential beneficiaries. Moral narcissism can be triggered where accusations of complicity are made and can slew decision making. We look at three interventions by Médecins Sans Frontières that gave rise to questions of complicity. We question its decision-guiding usefulness. Drawing on recent thought, we suggest that complicity can helpfully draw attention to the presence of moral conflict and to the way International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) can be drawn into unintentional wrongdoing. We acknowledge the moral challenge that complicity presents to humanitarian staff but argue that complicity does not help INGOs make tough decisions in morally compromising situations as to whether they should continue with an intervention or pull out.