“Science is not the highest value for which all other orders of values…should be subordinated” (Pope Pius XII, 1952)
The concept of Medical Ethics predates the time of Greek physician Hippocrates (5th century BCE) who formulated an oath for physicians to undertake publicly that they will place interests of their patients above their own interests. However, human experimentation since World War II has shown little or no respect for patient’s interests, in fact humans were brutally murdered in some experiments for the sake of so-called “universalize-able knowledge”.
Contemporary Issues in Biomedical Ethics
Recent advancements in the field of science, like creation of self-replicating autobots, creation of gametes from the skin cells, replacement of faulty mitochondria in an embryo with third parent’s healthy mitochondria and many other emerging technologies has raised many ethical challenges in the current era. However, it has been felt that understanding on how to deal with these emerging ethical problems is lacking in health professionals and researchers in the country.
Status of Biomedical Ethics Education in Pakistan
- Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (CBEC-SIUT)
A first fully dedicated institution for biomedical ethics, Centre for Bioethics and Culture (CBEC), was established in Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), Karachi in the country in 2004. Just after two years of its establishment, CBEC had started Pakistan’s first formal bioethics training program, a one-year Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) program. The PGD program was exclusively designed for mid-career professionals, who cannot spare time from their busy routine. Two years Master in Bioethics (MBE) program was also initiated in CBEC in 2009. Both PGD and MBE programs are the only locally funded bioethics programs in the country. Recently, CBEC has also started two certificate programs in research ethics and clinical ethics. The certificate programs are specifically designed for busy professionals who could not spare time for full time degree or diploma program. Until now 12 students has received certificate of attendance for both research ethics and clinical ethics modules. Currently, CBEC-SIUT is the only institute in formally engaged in biomedical ethics education and training in the country (Click here for more information).
Role of National Bioethics Committee, Pakistan
Pakistan Medical Research Council (PMRC) is also secretariat of National Bioethics Committee (URL: http://nbcpakistan.org.pk/), dealing with all aspects of healthcare ethics. NBC is comprised of two subcommittees: Research Ethics Committee (REC), which addresses ethics in research and Medical Ethics Committee (MEC), which addresses ethics in medical practice and education. Although, NBC has formulated guidelines related to clinical ethics (e.g. physician-pharma interaction) but its practical role is vastly limited to research ethics for which ethical approval is a prerequisite (Click here fore more information).
Ethical Review Committee, Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad
Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad (URL: http://www.pmc.edu.pk) is a public sector medical college, established in 1973. The medical college is attached with two large public sector hospitals: Allied Hospital and DHQ Hospital. The institute had established its own Institutional Ethics Review Committee (IRB00006912) in 2009, which conducts its meetings fortnightly to review the research proposals, predominantly submitted by FCPS students and researchers from other institutes. PMRC Research Centre, Faisalabad is secretariat for Ethical Review Committee.