Professor of Bioethics and Medicine
PRAXIS Australia and Sydney Health Ethics
University of Sydney
Ian Kerridge is Staff Haematologist/Bone Marrow Transplant physician at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney and Professor of Bioethics and Medicine at Sydney Health Ethics at the University of Sydney. He is also a Council Member of the ANZ Transplant and Cellular Therapies Society, Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) Ethics Committee, Chair of the South East Sydney LHD Clinical Ethics Committee, Steering Committee member of the Australian Ethical Health Alliance (AEHA) and a Director of PRAXIS Australia – an Australian NFP devoted to education in research and research ethics. He is the author of 6 textbooks of ethics and over 500 papers on ethics, philosophy, haematology and BMT. His current research in ethics include the ‘selling’ of autologous stem cells, high-cost drugs, over-diagnosis, conflict-of-interest, prescription drug policy and organ donation and transplantation.
Ethical Challenges of Science at Warp Speed
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the scientific and medical community scrambled to find effective therapies and vaccines. As the deaths from SARS-CoV-2 mounted the 'need for speed' was taken for granted and all facets of the scientific endeavour adapted to accommodate this.
The results have been remarkable, with effective vaccines developed within a year and new therapies emerging that are effective at slowing progression of pneumonia and preventing respiratory failure and death. And even in fields of research unrelated to COVID-19 the pandemic has revealed to researchers, health facilities and industry that it may be possible to do research differently and more efficiently.
At the same time, however, it is important to consider what, if anything, might have been lost or compromised when biomedical innovation sped up. We suggest that just as the imperatives of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed what can be achieved by science moving at speed, the experience with hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin and other agents have also revealed that there may be costs in doing so.
The processes surrounding research funding, design, peer review, publication, dissemination and translation have all been exposed as wanting by the COVID-19 pandemic. The question is whether we can learn from the failings of science during the pandemic and establish mechanisms that can speed up science but also remain attentive to scientific quality and integrity.
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