Research Ethics in The Arab World

The main purpose of research ethics is to protect humans against abuse. A founding milestone in the development of modern biomedical research ethics concepts was the Declaration of Helsinki on research involving human subjects. Other contributions include Nuremberg Code and Belmont Report (Schwenzer, 2011). Researches involving animals were also submitted to similar regulations in many countries (Miziara et al., 2012).
However, as the biomedical research advances, it become increasingly complex and new ethical issues continue to emerge. So, ethical guidelines should be continually updated to provide adequate response to these developments (Sharp et al., 2015). Many basic concepts of medical ethics were integral parts of medical practice in the Islamic culture. These include the basics of quality control and to some extent the principles of informed consent (Ajlouni, 2003).
In recent times, numerous organizational and legislative efforts has been made in many Arab countries to develop national and Arab research ethics guidelines. However, multiple shortcoming were cited in comparison to the international standards (Alahmad et al., 2012; Marzouk et al., 2014; Alahmad, 2017; Abdulrahman and Nair, 2017).
While it encouraging to learn that Arab medical (AlMahmoud et al., 2017) and pharmaceutical (Kheir et al., 2019) students have positive view of research ethics, reporting ethical practices in the Arab region remains sub-optimal (Sibai et al., 2019). Also, it’s concerning to see low awareness level of medical research ethics among some physicians (Azakir et al., 2020). It’s not surprising that implementation of research ethics is conflict areas e.g. Syria and Yemen is confronted by special challenges (Sen et al., 2016).
Recently, the second Eastern Mediterranean/Arab States regional summit of national ethics and bioethics committees was held at the WHO Regional Office in Cairo, Egypt, on 15–16 December 2019. The summit recommended enhancing online training, training of trainers and development of bylaws and regulations addressing the main ethical issues (Second Eastern Mediterranean/Arab States regional summit of national ethics and bioethics committees, 2020).
References
Abdulrahman M, Nair SC. Overall Assessment of Human Research and Ethics Committees in the United Arab Emirates. J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2017 Apr;12(2):71-78. doi: 10.1177/1556264617697522. Epub 2017 Mar 20. PMID: 28421889.
Ajlouni KM. Values, qualifications, ethics and legal standards in Arabic (Islamic) medicine. Saudi Med J. 2003 Aug;24(8):820-6. PMID: 12939664.
Alahmad G, Al-Jumah M, Dierickx K. Review of national research ethics regulations and guidelines in Middle Eastern Arab countries. BMC Med Ethics. 2012 Dec 12;13:34. doi: 10.1186/1472-6939-13-34. PMID: 23234422; PMCID: PMC3576357.
Alahmad G. The Saudi Law of Ethics of Research on Living Creatures and its Implementing Regulations. Dev World Bioeth. 2017 Aug;17(2):63-69. doi: 10.1111/dewb.12114. Epub 2016 Mar 3. PMID: 26936124.
AlMahmoud T, Hashim MJ, Elzubeir MA, Branicki F. Ethics teaching in a medical education environment: preferences for diversity of learning and assessment methods. Med Educ Online. 2017;22(1):1328257. doi: 10.1080/10872981.2017.1328257. PMID: 28562234; PMCID: PMC5508649.
Azakir B, Mobarak H, Al Najjar S, El Naga AA, Mashaal N. Knowledge and attitudes of physicians toward research ethics and scientific misconduct in Lebanon. BMC Med Ethics. 2020 May 14;21(1):39. doi: 10.1186/s12910-020-00475-5. PMID: 32410707; PMCID: PMC7227247.
Kheir N, Awaisu A, Ibrahim S, Al-Dulaimi SM, Gad H. Perspectives of Pharmacy Graduates Toward an Undergraduate Ethics Course and Its Potential Impact on Their Professional Practice. Adv Med Educ Pract. 2019 Dec 13;10:1047-1056. doi: 10.2147/AMEP.S224093. PMID: 31853214; PMCID: PMC6916692.
Marzouk D, Abd El Aal W, Saleh A, Sleem H, Khyatti M, Mazini L, Hemminki K, Anwar WA. Overview on health research ethics in Egypt and North Africa. Eur J Public Health. 2014 Aug;24 Suppl 1:87-91. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/cku110. PMID: 25108003.
Miziara ID, Magalhães AT, Santos Md, Gomes EF, Oliveira RA. Research ethics in animal models. Braz J Otorhinolaryngol. 2012 Apr;78(2):128-31. English, Portuguese. PMID: 22499381.
Schwenzer KJ. Best practice & research in anaesthesiology issue on new approaches in clinical research ethics in clinical research. Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2011 Dec;25(4):569-82. doi: 10.1016/j.bpa.2011.08.003. PMID: 22099922.
Second Eastern Mediterranean/Arab States regional summit of national ethics and bioethics committees. East Mediterr Health J. 2020 May 21;26(5):620-621. doi: 10.26719/2020.26.5.620. PMID: 32538458.
Sen K, Hussain H, Al-Faisal W. Ethics in times of conflict: some reflections on Syria, in the backdrop of Iraq. BMJ Glob Health. 2016 Nov 29;1(3):e000149. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2016-000149. PMID: 28588972; PMCID: PMC5321374.
Sharp RR, Taylor HA, Brinich MA, Boyle MM, Cho M, Coors M, Danis M, Havard M, Magnus D, Wilfond B. Research ethics consultation: ethical and professional practice challenges and recommendations. Acad Med. 2015 May;90(5):615-20. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000640. PMID: 25607942; PMCID: PMC4414686.
Sibai AM, Arawi T, Al Faisal W, Makhoul J, Hussain HY, Haddad S, Rizk A. Ethics Reporting Practices in Aging Research From the Arab Region. J Appl Gerontol. 2019 Nov 8:733464819886453. doi: 10.1177/0733464819886453. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 31701798.

Share this post