ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ethical Challenges in Public Health Research

The eighth Krishna Raj Memorial lecture by Eric Suba, held recently, was based on the visual inspection with acetic acid test for cervical cancer trials held in India and the lack of ethics they involved. Research that uses the absence of care as the foundation of its trial design is exploitative research that violates the rights of its participants who put their faith in researchers to protect them from harm.

Public health research is largely conducted on the poor and marginalised who are more susceptible to illness and disease and face greater barriers in access to healthcare. This poses a number of ethical challenges in research, as studies that exploit poverty and other vulnerabilities get justified in the name of collecting information essential to solving the problems of the poor. The Krishna Raj Memorial lecture on 4 February was a unique opportunity to start a discussion on critical concerns in this area. The US-based pathologist Eric Suba spoke on the ethics of what has been described as the path-breaking work on cancer prevention in poor communities. The lecture was held at the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital which is practically next door to the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) which conducted two of the controversial trials. The TMC’s director was invited to respond to the speaker, and the audience in the packed auditorium held many researchers, clinicians and students keen to listen to the debate. Hopefully, the heated exchanges will lead to serious deliberations on this subject.

Research on a Crucial Test

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