Ethics of Research During a Pandemic

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The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020, and as of September 27, 2020, there are over 32.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in more than 200 countries, with over 991,000 deaths that have been attributed to the disease (WHO, 2020). The necessity for conducting research to mitigate the significant morbidity, mortality, and economic impact caused by this pandemic is immense and raises thorny ethical issues regarding scientific research. These impacts are felt not only in studies of COVID-19, but trials of all medical products which may be interrupted from quarantine, site closures, travel limitations, or interruptions of the supply chains (FDA, 2020).

This discussion will focus on a few of the challenging ethical issues related to conducting research during a pandemic, including: is it ethical to shift scientific research priorities from other conditions to COVID-related research instead, how do we ensure informed consent amongst the extremely ill or quarantined; are higher-risk study designs such as human challenge experiments warranted; and how should populations cope with challenges to privacy by digital tools during a public health emergency?


Ethics of Research During a Pandemic


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