In whose interest? Comment on ''Toward a sociology of conflict of interest in medical research'' by Sarah Winch and Michael Sinnott

Linda Shields

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Abstract

Winch and Sinnott’s (2011) case scenario presents a not uncommon dilemma faced by many researchers. As one who studies the medical experiment crimes at Ravensbrück (Shields 2008), I hold a deep understanding of the necessity for research ethics committees, and I have written about how these can be subverted to satisfy personal agendas (Shields 2002). However, Winch and Sinnott have raised the spectre of research governance—nowadays associated with research ethics, and probably important—but I contend that this side of ethics administration is becoming as cumbersome as the ethics process itself, and I ask: Who gains from this? If protection of the subjects/participants is the raison d’être of research ethics committees, who are the beneficiaries of research governance committees? The whole process has taken on a “Yes, Minister” flavour, with the processes satisfying the bureaucrats, but leaving the participants largely unaware of research governance and certainly the researchers at risk (and I use the word advisedly, consistent with Winch and Sinnott’s narrative) of hours, weeks, months of extra work and delay of their projects. In fact, the delay illustrated in Winch and Sinnott’s scenario should be a major concern for the research ethics committee, as one of the requirements of ethical research is that it is completed efficiently and within a reasonable time frame.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-220
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Bioethical Inquiry
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012

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