Guidelines on Health Databases Must Consider Developing Countries

By Abbasi, Kamran | Bulletin of the World Health Organization, May 2000 | Go to article overview

Guidelines on Health Databases Must Consider Developing Countries


Abbasi, Kamran, Bulletin of the World Health Organization


Developing countries must be given special consideration when drawing up guidelines on centralized health databases, warned delegates of the World Health Organization and the World Medical Association at a joint seminar on the ethical implications and optimal design of centralized health databases. The seminar was held in May at the headquarters of WHO, in Geneva.

"WHO has a special responsibility for developing countries, where regulatory frameworks and technical expertise may be scarce, and the level of public awareness, education, and sophistication may be low," explained Dr Daniel Wikler, senior ethicist at WHO. "Developing countries must receive particular attention because current initiatives in wealthy countries might serve as precedents for similar undertakings in developing countries. The interests of developing countries need special attention also because firms and agencies now gaining experience in developed countries may turn to populations in poorer countries in the course of research initiatives".

Representatives from both organizations debated whether producing international ethical guidelines on the use of health databases would be a valuable next step in protecting the public and allowing scientific research to continue. Health databases have been an indispensable resource for researchers over many years, but recent progress in genetics has sparked public fears that the information on these databases could be abused. …

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