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November 2007 Vol. 9 No. 2

School of Nursing Hosts Lecture on Ethics in Medicine

Professor Thalia Arawi

The Research and Continuing Education Committee at the School of Nursing held its first lecture on October 25, the first in a series of lectures in an upcoming seminar on the Conduct of Biomedical and Health Related Research. This month's lecture, entitled "Science Without Conscience," was presented by guest speaker Thalia Arawi of the AUB Faculty of Medicine and the Philosophy Department.

Arawi received her PhD in bioethics and is a member of the American Society of Bioethics, the Canadian Society of Bioethics, and the International Association of Bioethics. She recently also became a member of the University's Institutional Review Board committee.

As an introduction to the issue, Arawi began with a historical account of medical research ethics that dates back to the Roman era and continues with the conception of ethical concerns in the twentieth century. She then gave a chronology of the principal ethical guidelines and policies, most prominent of which is the Belmont Report in 1979. Juxtaposed to this were visual reminders of past cases of unethical research practices, which included pictures of the participants in the Tuskegee syphilis study of 1932-72 and, more recently, the United Kingdom's consent to research on animal-human hybrid embryos.

"Who plays God in the twenty-first century?" was one of Arawi's leading questions. It seems that despite all efforts, absolute prevention and protection is beyond what any legislative action can achieve. Arawi alluded to the idea that what is not addressed in ethical guidelines and which cannot be achieved by legal regulations are the characteristics of an ethical researcher. She said that a researcher must have inherent values in ethical practice and not rely solely on rules and regulations.

Medical and nursing staff and students, and members of the AUB community, all actively engaged in the final questions and answer session. One significant concern was raised regarding the cultural differences that must be accommodated with respect to ethical practices in the Middle East.