Need for East-West Dialogue, Critical Reflection Highlighted in Ethics Workshop

17 May 2007

More than forty health research professionals and ethics experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as well as from Europe, Asia and North America gathered in Almaty May 7-8 for a workshop on building ethics in health research for Central Asia.

The two-day workshop was organized by the Central Asian Centre on Health Research for Development at the Kazakhstan School of Public Health with the support of the Office for Human Research Protection at the Department of Health & Human Services (US), the UNESCO Almaty Cluster Office for Central Asia and the Good Clinical Practice Alliance Europe.

Lectures and small group sessions featured comparative analyses and lively discussions on ethical models for health research. The countries of Central Asia Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan lie at the crossroads between East and West; as former Soviet republics as well as multi-confessional, multicultural societies, they require a complex approach to the development of ethical frameworks.

The uniqueness of the region and its needs was highlighted, especially in the country profiles presented by members of the Central Asia Working Group for Bioethics, formed in fall 2006 under the auspices of the UNESCO Almaty Cluster office.

In her presentation Dr. Feruza Zagyrtdinova from the Tashkent State Medical Academy in Uzbekistan remarked, We cannot simply import bioethics culture without adapting it to the specific cultural, social and economic features of our region.

The need for societies to openly discuss ethical issues at all levels was stressed by Dr. Darryl Macer, Regional Advisor for the Social and Human Sciences in the Asia and Pacific Region, UNESCO Bangkok. In many countries ethics committees are present but the critical reflection and social debate surrounding ethical issues are not. UNESCO would like to advance further these ethical discussions.

Other international participants and trainers included: Melody H. Lin Deputy Director, Office for Human Research Protections, DHHS, USA; Francis P. Crawley, Executive Director, Good Clinical Practice Alliance Europe; Nancy M. P. King, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA and James Appleyard, Past-President, World Medical Association, UK.

Small group sessions identified a lack of a robust legal framework, a lack of societal awareness appreciation of the value of ethics and a lack of lack of independence among the greatest obstacles facing researchers in Central Asia today.

Participants proposed ideas for action, including awareness-raising on ethics issues and the establishment of ethics training and information centers for Central Asian states. At the end of the workshop, participants put forth a strategy for future development of ethics for health research.

Dr. Altynai Karasaeva, UNESCO Chair in Gender and Human Rights at Kyrgyz-Slavic University, Bishkek, expressed her satisfaction with the results. This was a very practical workshop that has given me a great deal of information I can put into immediate use in my own work in Kyrgyzstan.

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