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BMJ. Dec 9, 1989; 299(6713): 1437–1439.
PMCID: PMC1838281

Diversity in the practice of district ethics committees.


A survey of ethics committees in district health authorities was carried out to find out the size and make up of committees and what information and guidance they offered to scientists who apply to do research. A sample (n = 28) of committees in England (n = 190), half from teaching districts and half from non-teaching districts, was contacted by post requesting this information. A high degree of diversity was found, not only in the methods that committees used but also in the ethical criteria each considered to be pertinent for research. It was also shown that published guidelines have made little impact. It is suggested that issuing more guidelines will be of limited use. Rather, the following are needed: information about why guidelines have been widely ignored, better communication between committees, some form of education for committee members, and a formal register of committees compiled.

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Selected References

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  • Diamond AL, Laurence DR. Compensation and drug trials. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983 Sep 3;287(6393):675–677. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Thompson IE, French K, Melia KM, Boyd KM, Templeton AA, Potter B. Research ethical committees in Scotland. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1981 Feb 28;282(6265):718–720. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Wells FO, Griffin JP. Ethics committees for clinical research. Experience in the United Kingdom. Drugs. 1989 Mar;37(3):229–232. [PubMed]

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