Ethics of emergencies

When researchers talked with the Afghan women about which of their rights they felt were being abused, they found them to be much more concerned about the lack of schooling for girls than the enforcement of veil wearing.

Ethical sanctions in the field of the social sciences are generally left to professional institutional review boards IRBsfunding agencies, or professional societies.

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Without adequate self-care, working in these situations can cause psychological injury to everyone from medical doctors, to social workers, and even to data analysts located at a distance geographically. Workshop participants listened to a presentation by Ruth Krulfeld of George Washington University about social categories and anthropological work among refugees.

Ronald Waldman of Columbia University argued that most important in this setting is to perform triage. Access appears to be inversely related to need, and there are concerns that profit rather than health goals is driving biomedical research—particularly clinical trials—in developing countries and among vulnerable populations.

Informed consent needs to be seen as an ongoing process, not just a one-time event. The goal isn't to figure out how best to survive emergencies, but to figure out how to avoid them, or if you get into them, end them quickly. Which means in life, you're either a murderer, you are a victim, or you can sacrifice your life for other people. A protective voice is needed which includes members of the affected community if possible, or at least individuals who are familiar with the culture and population—such as the advisory review panel suggested by Felice Levine see below. All of these problems are complex, but simple frameworks can help researchers to find solutions. He addressed two issues; first, in conflict-affected settings, the researcher and the sponsoring organization have a duty to make a safety assessment: Are the research subjects still vulnerable to coercion or retribution? Practical examples from disaster settings are used to demonstrate how these ethical principles can be applied. Note that public health surveillance and outbreak investigations in the United States do not require informed consent procedures. Can one ethically make use of the data they collected? Although it is important to recognize different cultural norms, Susan Martin of Georgetown University argued that cultural relativism can actually prevent agencies from defining people as refugees in order to protect and aid them. Because researchers have an ethical obligation to protect and secure their data archives, should research be conducted if security is an impossibility? In emergency settings, as in other settings, research may often benefit future populations of refugees but be of little immediate value to the research subjects themselves. There is a fundamental disharmony of interests, and it's kill or be killed.

For example, one might contemplate testing new therapeutic feeding programs on severely malnourished children. Many nongovernmental organizations NGOs collect program data that are meant to be internal, but are later used by researchers; is it ethical to use these found data?

According to Krulfeld, including refugees as partners can often help to present or resolve ethical dilemmas. You may survive the lifeboat scenario, but only because you remove yourself from the emergency situation at some point.

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If so, then informed consent cannot create autonomy.

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Research ethics in the context of humanitarian emergencies.