Professor Morenike Folayan
Professor Morenike Folayan
The 2017 Bioethics Forum that held at the Rockview (Royale) Hotel in Abuja on the 13th and 14th of December left an indelible mark in the memories of most of the 35 participants. Many key issues that will inform the practice of research were highlighted at the conference.

One of the highlights was the recognition that for research, the law regulates the minimum standard of practice. The standards are raised through the research ethical codes. Adherence to the high standards of research ethical codes can lead to research outcomes that can lead to the review of laws.

Second, vulnerability should not be a reason for unethical exclusion of research participants. Research protocols should be reviewed to ensure that the vulnerability of study participants is not exploited. The prospect for exploitation should however not be a reason to exclude any vulnerable population from research participation. Rather, ethics committees should put safe guard measures in place to prevent such exploitation. It is important to generate research derived evidence about vulnerable populations so as have needed information to plan for their health access.

Ironically, legal liabilities may restrict the respect for the principle of justice when designing and implementing research, leading to unjust exclusion. Researchers and ethics committee members need to strike a balance between the law and ethical practices when reviewing research protocols and when implementing research in the field.

Third, there was a huge debate on the choice between the universality of the standard of care packages for research and adherence to local standard of care for research. The debate remained unresolved though the majority of participants advocated for the universality of the standard of care for research.

Fourth, all communities are organized with recognized political leaders and mechanisms for communicating. The lack of visibility of the community does not imply they do not exist. In every community, there are persons educated and literates to engage with during with designing and implementing research protocols. Look for representatives of communities targeted in any research protocols; and engage educated community representatives during research protocol development and implementation. Community members best understand mechanism for communicating with one another. This is needed to be able to effectively engage with any community. Community engagement needs to be strategically planned and funded. A media engagement plan should be developed as part of any community engagement plan.

Fifth, health research design should not only have a public health approach but should also have a human right focus. The two should be inseparable

Sixth, research is essential but not an emergency. Take time to do the right thing.

Finally, all research designs need to respect diversities. This implies that all community based research should be encouraged to include social scientists as part of their research team members. Ethics committee members were encouraged to screen for this during the review of community based research protocols. Targeted committee head should also give letter of permission for the research; and the letter should be submitted along with the research protocol at the time of application for ethics clearance. 

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