I am reporting from Tokyo where today distinguished ethicists, educators, business leaders and government officials from around the world are meeting for a two-day World Medical Association (WMA) expert conference to evaluate potential revisions of the Declaration of Helsinki (DOH). A similar conference (blog December 5, 2012) was held in Cape Town, South Africa in December.
The DOH, adopted by the WMA in 1964, is a statement of ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects that is widely recognized as a core standard for research.
This conference is part of a multi-year effort by the World Medical Association to examine the DOH to determine if changes are needed. The purpose is not to change core principles but to decide if change is needed to deal with the complexities of today’s world.
In examining the DOH for potential change the WMA has had as a goal a process defined by transparency and the seeking of a diversity of opinions from experts around the world. The conferences in Cape Town and now Tokyo reflect that goal.
The Japanese Medical Association (JMA) is serving as host country and the conference will be opened by addresses from Yoshitake Yokokura, JMA President, and Fumimaro Takaku, President of the Japanese Association of Medical Sciences. In addition, Norihisa Tamura, Minister, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Japan will give welcoming remarks. I will bring greetings from the 102 member-countries of the WMA.
During the conference sessions led by ethics experts will consider a variety of issues related to medical research involving human subjects. As in previous conferences these will include biobanks, insurance/compensation/protection, resource poor settings, post-study arrangements, vulnerable groups and ethics committees.
Countries represented among the participants in Tokyo include Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Taiwan, Indonesia, Uganda and India.
The meeting agenda includes a process for consensus building and summing up of the information shared. The WMA DOH Workgroup plans to submit an initial draft revised document at the WMA Council meeting in Bali in April and following this submit it for public comment.