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Sunday, May 29, 2016

The job of ‘ethics committees’ should be ethically informed code consistency review

Søren Holm
J Med Ethics doi:10.1136/medethics-2015-103343

Moore and Donnelly argue in the paper ‘The job of “ethics committees”’ that research ethics committees should be renamed and that their job should be specified as “review of proposals for consistency with the duly established and applicable code” only.  They raise a large number of issues, but in this comment I briefly want to suggest that two of their arguments are fundamentally flawed.

The first flawed argument is the argument related to the separation of powers. Moore and Donnelly proceed from the premise that it is pro tanto better to have an institutional arrangement that separates code-making powers and decisional powers, and then proceed to argue that this separation is not feasible for what they call ‘ethics consistency review’ because “no matter who established any prespecified review standards, the review decision maker must be empowered at review to revise those standards when this would make for an ethical improvement.

The response article is here.