Expert Conference to Discuss Revising Declaration of Helsinki

South African Medical Association (SAMA) will host the World Medical Association expert conference on the Revision of Declaration of Helsinki. Based on ethical principles of medical research, the conference will take place from December 5 – 7, at the Westin Hotel, Cape Town.

Described as one of the most important international ethical regulations of biomedical research – and also one of the core documents of the WMA – the Declaration has been revised several times since its adoption in Helsinki in 1964 as a statement of ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. This includes research on identifiable human material and data.

‘The conference will provide a platform for the international biomedical ethics community to air diverse viewpoints on the Declaration of Helsinki in order to identify the points in need of revision and facilitate the drafting of a revised version. This will ensure that the revised Declaration will not only be in line with new developments and challenges in biomedical research, but will also take a broad range of international perspectives into consideration’, said Prof Zephne van der Spuy, SAMA President, when commenting on the upcoming event.

The objective of the workgroup is to gain the approval of the General Assembly for the revised version by October 2014, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Helsinki. In October 2011, the Council of the World Medical Association decided to embark on a process of revising the internationally accepted benchmark document in human medical research, the Declaration of Helsinki.

The high profile conference will have presentations from the most relevant authors who have published on this topic, as well as leading experts in the field from South Africa, Uganda, Malawi, Germany, Switzerland the USA, Iceland, Canada, Brazil and Uruguay, among others. It will be followed by further expert conferences, the next being in Tokyo in early 2013.

Dr. Cecil Wilson, President of the WMA, said: ‘We hope that this conference will continue the excellent process of helping the revision of this Declaration so that we can present a first revised draft to the WMA Council meeting next April and then seek public comment.’

A common thread running through all discussions is expected to be the understanding that the primary purpose of medical research involving human subjects is to understand the causes, development and effects of diseases and improve preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions (methods, procedures and treatments).