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Prof Paul Komesaroff

Professor of Medicine,
PRAXIS Australia and Centre for Ethics,
Monash University and Alfred Hospital

Paul Komesaroff is a physician, medical researcher and philosopher at Monash University in Melbourne, where he is Professor of Medicine. He is also Executive Director of the international NGO Global Reconciliation and a former President of Adult Medicine in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP).

His work spans a wide range of disciplines, encompassing clinical practice, laboratory, clinical and social science research and ethics. The latter addresses the impact of new technologies on health and society, consent in research, the experience of illness, end of life issues, psychological effects of trauma, and cross-cultural teaching and learning. His international work covers reconciliation and healing after conflict and social crisis, the nature and impact of foreign aid, and capacity building in global health.

In addition to the roles mentioned above, Professor Komesaroff is a present or past member or chair of numerous committees in professional societies, institutions and government in Australia and internationally. He is a board member of various NGOs and is a Past President of the Australasian Bioethics Association.

He is the Chair of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry and Ethics Editor of the Internal Medicine Journal. He is the author of more than 450 articles in science, ethics and philosophy, and author or editor of sixteen books, including Riding a crocodile: a physician’s tale (2014), Experiments in love and death (2014 and 2008), Continent aflame (2020), Pathways to reconciliation (2008), Objectivity, science and society (2nd ed. 2009), and Troubled bodies (1996).

Presentation Title

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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