The mission of the Ethics Committees during the COVID-19 Pandemic

06.05.2020

The ‘European Network of Research Ethics Committees’ (EUREC), of which swissethics is member, has released a position paper on the responsibility of Research Ethics Committees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

EUREC reaffirms and reminds all concerned parties (researchers, institutions, sponsors, …) that the mission of the Ethics Committees is the protection of the dignity, rights, safety and well-being of research participants, in medical research, and that this also applies against the background of the current pandemic situation.

The pressure currently being exerted on medical research must not lead to research or testing of pharmaceuticals on humans without complying with the ethical standards and applicable legislation to medical research. An accelerated procedure cannot be pursued at the expense of those ethical standards or in derogation from the law.

Thus, it is here reminded that the current COVID-19 pandemic situation does not change the application of the Federal Act on Research involving Human Beings (HRA), and in particular of its article 34 (exception: without the patient's consent). The conditions set out in this article must continue to be met in order to guarantee the protection of the persons participating in the medical research. If the Ethics Committees consider that the three conditions set by article 34 HRA are not met, the Ethics Committees won’t grant authorisation within the meaning of this article.