Ethics in research

This summer, incoming first-year students to Wake Forest University completed an academic project involving writings by Dr. James Jones on bioethics, medical research, and ethics. Now Jones, the author of Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment comes to campus all week for the Center for Bioethics, Health and Society’s conference.

“Our focus is the deep consideration of important issues in research ethics that have been under addressed or insufficiently considered, or that merit reexamination because changing societal and technological developments mean we are thinking about them in new ways,” said Nancy King, co-director of the Center for Bioethics, Health and Society.  “This is not a conference about the newest and trendiest questions. Instead it is about the research ethics questions that come up day after day as part of the ongoing challenge of conducting research with humans as research subjects.”

The conference, Research Ethics: Reexamining Key Concerns will be held November 10 – 11. It brings to campus some of the best scholars in the field, who are not only knowledgeable thinkers and writers, but also dynamic speakers, according to King. The speakers are physician-investigators, lawyers and philosophers who embody the interdisciplinary nature of bioethics.

“Bioethics addresses issues that touch everybody, and that engage all our sensibilities and responsibilities as moral agents. Bioethics also addresses issues that every member of society should be able to consider and discuss,” King said. “Science is not merely a matter of fact; the pursuit of scientific progress is a social pursuit, involving people and the values we identify with people and the planet.”

King says she is expecting a diverse crowd of attendees, in keeping with the many disciplines looking into bioethics.

“Bioethics reminds us to exercise public responsibility about research involving humans,” King said.   — which sounds oh-so-serious, but the truth is that addressing bioethics issues is really interesting —as everyone who comes to the conference, or any of the week’s events with Dr. Jones, will undoubtedly learn, “ King said.

While the conference begins with a look at Dr. Jones’ writings on the Tuskegee experiment, it also looks to the present and future. “We will also examine the contemporary practices concerning the relationship between researchers and study participants, between treatment and research and also between access to emerging technologies and protection through internal review boards (IRBs).” center co-director Ana Iltis said. “Biomedical research is vital to continued progress in health care, yet the research process raises numerous ethical questions and concerns.”

The conference is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to register so event planners will have an accurate head count.

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