Medical Teacher

ISSN: 0142-159X (Print) 1466-187X (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/imte20

Research ethics and medical education Dr. Eimear Hally & Kieran Walsh To cite this article: Dr. Eimear Hally & Kieran Walsh (2014): Research ethics and medical education, Medical Teacher To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/0142159X.2014.956068

Published online: 03 Sep 2014.

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Date: 07 November 2015, At: 01:31

2014, 1, Early Online

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Research ethics and medical education

Medical Teacher

Dear Sir Medical journals and medical education journals that publish original work require authors to state what consideration they have given to the ethical implications of their work (World Medical Association 2000; Eva 2009). Some require authors to declare that they have received ethical approval for their studies (World Medical Association 2000). Even though a declaration regarding ethics or ethical approval of original studies is required in most medical education journals, our hypothesis has been that the reporting with regard to ethics is less than satisfactory. To investigate this we looked at articles published in four of the main medical education journals in 2013. These journals were Medical Teacher, Medical Education, Biomed Central Medical Education, and Medical Education Online. We only looked at articles that described original work. We did not look at articles where ethical approval would not have been necessary (e.g. systematic reviews, meta-analyses, editorials, letters, commentaries, and other forms of non-original articles). We found the following results. We found a total of 405 relevant papers that described original work. 201 papers stated that they had received ethical approval from an institutional review board (IRB) or a university research ethics committee or a medical school ethics committee or human research ethics committee or an equivalent committee. 21 stated that they received ethical approval from a hospital ethics committee. 21 papers stated that they received ethical approval from a national or regional committee. 17 papers stated that they received ethical approval from an education or medical education research committee. 20 papers stated that they had ethical approval but did not say what body had approved their research. 57 papers stated that they received a waiver or exemption from their ethics committee declaring that ethics approval was not required. 14 papers stated that national law meant that ethical approval was not required for medical education research in their country. We found 51 papers that didn’t mention ethics, or that stated that ethics approval was

ISSN 0142-159X print/ISSN 1466-187X online/14/000001–1 ß 2014 Informa UK Ltd. DOI: 10.3109/0142159X.2014.956068

not required without giving any further explanation. We found three articles that we felt could not be classified. The majority of original papers that we looked at had a clear statement of ethical approval from an ethics committee of some sort or another. However we felt that there were clear areas where improvements in the reporting of ethics could be made. Too many articles didn’t mention ethics, or that stated that ethics approval was not required without giving any further explanation. A small minority of articles claimed to have ethical approval but did not say what body had approved their research. Some papers stated that they received a waiver or exemption from their ethics committee declaring that ethics approval was not required; however in only a minority of these was there a full and proper explanation as to why the waiver was put in place. The ethics committees that were cited as having approved studies were of a variety of different types. We question whether all had sufficient expertise in medical education research and wonder whether medical education research should be approved by a dedicated medical education research ethics committee or at least by a committee containing some experts in medical education research. Lastly we feel that all countries should require ethical approval for medical education research in their jurisdiction. In summary, we feel that all original papers in medical education should contain a clear statement with regard to the ethics of their study or a clear statement of ethical approval from a suitably qualified and explicitly named body. If a study receives a waiver from such a body, then the reasons for the waiver should be stated. Dr. Eimear Hally, Assistant GP, Tyndall Clinic, Graiguecullen, Carlow, Ireland. Kieran Walsh, BMJ Learning, BMJ Publishing Group, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JR, UK. Tel: 0207 3836550; Fax: 0207 3836242; E-mail: [email protected]

Declaration of interest: The authors report no conflicts of interest.

References Eva K. 2009. Research ethics requirements for medical education. Med Educ 43:194–195. World Medical Association. 2000. Declaration of Helsinki: Ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. JAMA 284(23):3043–3045.

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