Infectious disease outbreaks are frequently characterized by scientific uncertainty, social and institutional disruption, and an overall climate of fear and distrust. Policy makers and public health professionals may be forced to weigh and prioritize potentially competing ethical values in the face of severe time and resource constraints. This document seeks to assist policy-makers, health care providers, researchers, and others prepare for outbreak situations by anticipating and preparing for the critical ethical issues likely to arise.
Professor Michael Selgelid is the new Director of the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Bioethics. He took over from Ron Bayer, he was elected president for the upcoming two years at the network`s meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland on 13 June 2016.
Michael Selgelid is Director of the Centre for Human Bioethics and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Bioethics at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Bioethics and serves on the Ethics Review Board of Médecins Sans Frontières. His main research focus is public health ethics—with emphasis on ethical issues associated with infectious diseases.
Surveillance is one of the most fundamental activities of public health, involving different areas and practices such as non-communicable disease registers, outbreak investigations, and health systems research. Public health surveillance raises multiple ethical issues concerning, among others, the use/non-use of informed consent or the provision/non-provision of standards of care.
WHO has launched a project to develop WHO Guidelines on Ethical Issues in Public Health Surveillance, and for this purpose established an international Guideline Development Group. After several expert meetings have taken place the guidelines are expected to be published in early 2017.
The Steering Committee for the 12th biennial Summit welcomes all National Ethics Committees (NECs) to Dakar, Senegal from 22-24 March 2018.
The last summit in Berlin brought together representatives of NECs of 83 countries. The Berlin Summit theme: “Global Health, Global Ethics, Global Justice”, set the stage for plenary discussions on emerging and converging technologies, bioethical policies and law and raising social awareness on bioethical issues.
About ethics and health
The Global Health Ethics Unit provides a focal point for the examination of ethical issues raised by activities throughout the Organization. The unit also supports Member States in addressing ethical issues that arise in their own countries. This includes a range of global bioethics topics; from public health surveillance to developments in genomics, and from research with human beings to fair access to health services.
This unit’s work is particularly important in the context of contemporary health challenges and raises and addresses difficult questions in areas such as resource allocation, new technologies, decision-making in clinical care and public health.
WHO Research Ethics Review Committee (ERC)
The ERC ensures that WHO only supports research of the highest ethical standards. The ERC reviews all research projects, involving human participants supported either financially or technically by WHO.