Friday, March 16, 2007

Ain't no Mountain High enough

A British Scientist is intending to take 9 children (Ages 6-13) among others up Everest to the Everest Base Camp, more than 17,000 feet above sea level. Part of the aim of the trek is to explore the effect of altitude and lack of oxygen on children. The Scientist involved claims that:

The findings, will be of use to anesthesiologists and critical care physicians, and it may one day be used to help children whose breathing disorders put them at risk of brain damage and critical illness.


However there are significant ethical concerns:

Firstly there are concerns about risks to the children involved, given that they will not benefit from whatever the benefits of this study may be. Further there are concerns that this information could be gained in safer ways by for example simulating the high altitude, low atmosphere environment, this would allow immediate access to specialist health care if it is necessary. Then there are concerns about consent and coercion since four of the children involved are the researchers own children.

These are serious ethical concerns, and as such it's surprising that the research is being allowed to go ahead, at least it is surprising until you realise that in Britain, unless research is related to the NHS, or involving human tissue or prisoners there is little or no statutory requirements for ethical review of research instead each university has its own ethics system, which may not even require review of most projects by a properly constituted committee. Perhaps this might serve as a wake up call?

More details here

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