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J Trauma. 2009 Dec;67(6):1443-7. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3181bba255.

Emergency innovation: implications for the trauma surgeon.

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1
Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, Department of Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Experimentation involving human subjects requires careful attention to the protection of their rights. Beginning with the Belmont Report in 1979, the United States has developed various sets of rules and regulations that identify the requirements for performing human subject research. In addition, these standards attempt to define the fundamental difference between what constitutes research versus clinical treatment versus innovation. We explore the intersection between two areas of independent bioethics, surgical innovation and emergency research; the point we refer to as emergency innovation.

METHODS:

A systematic literature review in each of the fields of emergency research and surgical innovation was completed. The ethical principles involved in each field were identified. In addition, a recent case of surgical innovation within the context of emergency treatment is evaluated for the ethics invoked.

RESULTS:

One of the great challenges in emergency innovation is that the main protection offered in innovation (heightened informed consent) is not possible in the emergency context where in fact informed consent is waived. Interestingly, the rest of the protections outlined for each field are not mutually exclusive. They can and should be utilized in any project that takes place at this intersection. However, as there are no strict regulations in place for the collision of these two fields, the possibility of having the majority of the involved ethical principles misinterpreted or ignored is very real.

CONCLUSIONS:

For emergency innovation, where it is unclear what ethical principles and regulatory powers apply, it is imperative to be unambiguous about the purpose of the investigation, to adhere to all applicable ethical principles, and to have utmost consideration for protection of the research subject. To determine intent, the goals of the study must be outlined precisely - and if those include the prospect of publication, institutional review board (IRB) approval should be involved early. If, however, the innovation is subtle and the goal geared toward improved patient care, a small feasibility trial would be an appropriate first step before transitioning to a formal larger study approved by an IRB. In either case, the degree of the change in practice must be carefully evaluated and the vulnerability of the research subjects respected. With careful attention paid to all applicable ethical principles at the emergency innovation intersection, medical progress can continue at minimized risk to the human subject participants.

PMID:
20009701
DOI:
10.1097/TA.0b013e3181bba255
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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