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Open Access Debate

Ethical challenges in integrating patient-care with clinical research in a resource-limited setting: perspectives from Papua New Guinea

Moses Laman1*, William Pomat2, Peter Siba2 and Inoni Betuela1

Author Affiliations

1 Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Madang, Madang Province, Papua New Guinea

2 Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

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BMC Medical Ethics 2013, 14:29  doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-29

Published: 26 July 2013

Abstract

Background

In resource-limited settings where healthcare services are limited and poverty is common, it is difficult to ethically conduct clinical research without providing patient-care. Therefore, integration of patient-care with clinical research appears as an attractive way of conducting research while providing patient-care. In this article, we discuss the ethical implications of such approach with perspectives from Papua New Guinea.

Discussion

Considering the difficulties of providing basic healthcare services in developing countries, it may be argued that integration of clinical research with patient-care is an effective, rational and ethical way of conducting research. However, blending patient-care with clinical research may increase the risk of subordinating patient-care in favour of scientific gains; therapeutic misconception and inappropriate inducement; and the risk of causing health system failures due to limited capacity in developing countries to sustain the level of healthcare services sponsored by the research. Nevertheless, these ethical and administrative implications can be minimised if patient-care takes precedence over research; the input of local ethics committees and institutions are considered; and funding agencies acknowledge their ethical obligation when sponsoring research in resource-limited settings.

Summary

Although integration of patient-care with clinical research in developing countries appears as an attractive way of conducting research when resources are limited, careful planning and consideration on the ethical implications of such approach must be considered.

Keywords:
Developing countries; Resource-limited settings; Papua New Guinea; Ethical challenges; Therapeutic misconception; Inducement