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J Health Care Poor Underserved. 2010 Aug;21(3 Suppl):35-45. doi: 10.1353/hpu.0.0356.

The ethics of good communication in a complex research partnership.

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National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL 36088, USA.


The tripartite partnership among Morehouse School of Medicine, Tuskegee University, and University of Alabama at Birmingham is complex. In 2005, the three schools--with different institutional cultures, characters, and resources--agreed to collaborate in efforts to eliminate racial/ethnic disparities in cancer burdens. Pursuing this laudable aim predictably involved some miscommunication. The Bioethics Shared Resource (BSR) group foresaw such challenges and monitored interactions to prevent harm, noting that while effective communication is critical to the achievement of mutual goals, an understanding and prudent use of proven communication principles is a sine qua non for success. In this commentary, we share the undergirding moral concepts, communication approaches, and lessons learned. This experience has led us to propose an ethics of good communication for others to consider.

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