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Monday, June 9, 2014 - 12:47pm

Atlanta Panel Looks At Ethics Of Conducting Research On People With Serious Brain Injuries

A presidential commission is in Atlanta looking at the ethical implications of neuroscience research. Monday participants discussed whether it’s ethical to conduct research on someone who’s suffered a serious brain injury.

President Barack Obama has charged the panel with developing a set of core ethical standards for neuroscience researchers.

Dr. David Wright, an associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Emory University’s School of Medicine, says the research is important for progress.

“It is unethical not to perform the research because we don’t know what we’re doing now is correct or not,” said Wright. “And we could be killing you without knowing it unless we actually do the work and do the research to find out.”

One concern raised is that doctors are asking for help from the family of a patient at the worst possible time in their lives.

The panel also talked about the need for more Alzheimer’s disease research. But Rebecca Dresser, a law professor at Washington University, says trying to get consent from a patient with dementia is difficult.

“Risks and burdens that seem to us no big deal, could be terrifying to somebody who doesn’t understand why this is being done to them, doesn’t remember what you just told them about what you’re going to be doing. So you have to think about that.”

One recommendation under consideration is commissioning someone who is not affiliated with the research to decide whether it is in the patient’s best interest to participate in the study.

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues will recommend to the Obama administration a set of core ethical standards to help guide researchers. The commission continues its public meeting Tuesday.