Aspects of disaster research ethics applicable to other contexts

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In his article ‘The Ebola Clinical Trials: a precedent for research ethics in disasters’, Philippe Calain constructs a compelling case as to why and how experiences from the recent Ebola epidemic should be used to develop a framework for disaster research ethics. In particular, Calain proposes a useful model for assessing whether or not an unproven intervention could be suitable for human use in a disaster context, and makes a powerful argument against the separation of patient care from research goals. In this commentary, I argue that the separation of patient care goals from research goals is also unhelpful in the context of other forms of participant disadvantage even when that disadvantage is less severe than an ongoing public health emergency. I contend that recognising that research in disadvantaged populations is an intervention that could and should aim to produce positive outcomes for participants, just as it should in disaster contexts, therefore seems a well-justified lesson that can be extrapolated from the experience of the Ebola epidemic.

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