Secret ethics business?

Lynn Gillam
Monash Bioethics Review 2003, 22 (1): 52-62
In this paper, I question the common assumption that the workings of Human Research Ethics Committees should be treated as confidential. This is actually quite a complex issue, since there are many stages in the ethics approval process, and a number of different stakeholders who might wish to claim access, or restrict access, to different sorts of information. Here I consider just one aspect--whether ethics committee members should be free to reveal in public the details of what occurs in their meetings. My approach is two-fold: first a negative argument that confidentiality does not apply to ethics committee deliberations, and then a positive argument that there is an important public good, namely accountability, to be served by making these deliberations open to the public.

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