When the Ebola outbreak began in December 2013 in Guinea and rapidly spread across many countries in West Africa, creating one of the worst public health crisis in the sub-region in modern history, the international community rallied round to provide whatever help was available to mitigate the crisis. This included the use of untested drugs and vaccines with no proven efficacy. Although several ethical questions were raised, the proponents of the use of untested products in such circumstances provided counter arguments to justify their use.
Situations like this highlight the dilemma faced by vulnerable communities and individuals in dire situations where they have little choices when invited to participate in research, including very risky research. How best can such individuals and communities be protected from exploitation by researchers or even in clinical practice? What roles can the principles of bioethics and the legal system play to protect vulnerable populations from exploitation?
Since 2016, the New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Society (NHVMAS), a Nigeria-based advocacy organization has been organizing annual bioethics forums to examine the various ethical issues associated with local and international research. The 2018 edition of the Forum will hold from December 12 to 13 at the Ibis Hotel, Ikeja Lagos, and is being organized in collaboration with the Bioethics Society of Nigeria (BESON). As in the previous editions, the 2018 Forum will bring together individuals and groups across many disciplines with interest in bioethics, including community activists, members of institutional review boards and ethics committees, researchers, and past and present participants in research, to explore the concepts of vulnerability and exploitation; share experiences from the field and proffer suggestions to how vulnerable individuals can be protected from exploitation during research. The Forum will feature plenaries, panel discussions, abstract driven sessions, case presentations and a community session.
Lagos, the host city of the 2018 Bioethics Forum, remains the commercial capital of Nigeria, and boasts of literarily any type of business you can imagine. In addition, Lagos is a cultural melting pot representing cultures from across Nigeria, West Africa and beyond. The several beautiful beaches of Lagos are a welcome delight to any tourist wishing to cool off from the hustle and bustle of the city. Or if you choose, the different musical halls featuring diverse selection of musical interest from hip hop to classical to Afro beat, and many more, could provide a very relaxing evening in many spots in Lagos. If you have a taste for real African food, Lagos is it – from Ofe nmanu (oily soup) to eforiro and ewedu taken with amala to einkaikon, and even some Asian recipes – there is always something for everyone!
On behalf of the 2018 Bioethics Forum Steering Committee, I invite you to join us in the beautiful city of Lagos as we deliberate on “Bioethics, vulnerability and protection from exploitation in research” We look forward to welcoming you in December.
Chidi Nweneka, MBBS, PhD
Chair, Steering Committee