Bioethics

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The Regional Program on Bioethics cooperates with Member States in the development of bioethics. In this regard, we build capacity in bioethics in the region and support PAHO and Member States in the integration of bioethics in all health-related activities. For background information about the Program, visit Bioethics (Concept paper, 2012)

The Program's lines of work are research ethics and public health ethics. We work to strengthen research ethics to ensure that all research with human subjects is ethical and to systematically integrate ethics in all public health work and decision-making processes that affect the health of populations. For more information about bioethics advances in the region and challenges that remain, visit Bioethics: Towards the Integration of Ethics in Health: Final Report (2018) 

The Regional Bioethics Program also houses the PAHO Ethics Review Committee (PAHOERC). PAHOERC reviews all research with human subjects in which PAHO is involved.

1. Research ethics: 

Strengthening research ethics systems to ensure that research is always ethical. This implies ensuring adequate legal frameworks to govern research and competent ethics review of research with human subjects, establishing effective oversight mechanisms, advancing institutional commitments to ensure ethical research, and building capacity for researchers and ethics review committees.

2. Public health ethics:

Systematically integrating ethics into ongoing public health work and decision-making processes that impact on the population of the countries in the Americas. A systematic integration of ethics in public health starts with capacity building and entails the inclusion of an ethics approach to surveillance, emergency response, immunization, and policy-making. It also entails the inclusion of ethical deliberations in decision-making processes aimed at advancing universal access to health and universal health coverage. 

What is the difference between the duties of the Regional Program on Bioethics and the Ethics Office in PAHO?

The Regional Program on Bioethics works in bioethics as the discipline that studies the ethical problems that arise in regards to health, for example, when conducting research with human subjects, designing health policy, or providing health care.

The Ethics Office seeks to ensure that PAHO employees behave ethically in the exercise of their work: With professional integrity and following the rules of conduct of the Organization.

Which are the different areas within bioethics?

Ethical problems permeate all areas of work in health. Health-related activities can be therapeutic (aimed at a direct benefit) or non-therapeutic (aimed at the generation of knowledge). Furthermore, they can aim at the individual or collective level.

The health activity that seeks the benefit of individuals is health care, and the ethical problems that arise in this context are the subject of clinical ethics. The health activity that seeks the benefit of populations is public health and the ethical problems that arise in this context are the subject of public health ethics. The health activity that doesn't seek a direct benefit for individuals but rather seeks for the generation of knowledge is health research. The ethical problems that arise when conducting health research are the subject of research ethics. Health research can either be clinical research or public health research. Research ethics covers both since they share the same normative and regulatory framework.


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