Research Ethics in The Arab World

The primary 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). Studies involving animals were also submitted to similar regulations in many countries (Miziara et al., 2012).
However, as biomedical research advances, new ethical issues continue to emerge. So, ethical guidelines should be continually updated to adequately respond to these developments (Sharp et al., 2015). Many fundamental 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).
Numerous organizational and legislative efforts have been made in many Arab countries to develop national and Arab research ethics guidelines. However, multiple shortcomings were cited compared to the international standards (Alahmad et al., 2012; Marzouk et al., 2014; Alahmad, 2017; Abdulrahman and Nair, 2017).
While it is encouraging to learn that Arab medical (AlMahmoud et al., 2017) and pharmaceutical (Kheir et al., 2019) students have a favorable view of research ethics, reporting ethical practices in the Arab region remains sub-optimal (Sibai et al., 2019). Also, it’s concerning to see a low awareness level of medical research ethics among some physicians (Azakir et al., 2020). It’s not surprising that the implementation of research ethics in conflict areas, e.g., Syria and Yemen, is confronted by particular 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 trainers’ online training and developing bylaws and regulations addressing the main ethical issues (Second Eastern Mediterranean/Arab States regional summit of national ethics and bioethics committees, 2020).

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