Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Transplantation Ethics Committee (TEC)

The Minister's clarification about hospital transplantation ethics committees (TEC) was assuring, but I think inadequate.

Reassuring because they will be properly trained people. Trained by the NUS Centre for Biomedical Ethics no less. This will be whole lot better than the 'training' for members of the current hospital clinical research ethics committees. Minister says the TEC will comprise 3 members - one lay person, one medical person....and the third, one of the doctors from the hospital.

But I am a bit concerned about the size of the committee. One of the important features of an ethics committee is that it should be able to represent as much as possible the breadth of opinions from the society. The current hospital ethics committees, as mandated by GCP-ICH is a minimum of 5 members. Even so, I feel 5 is probably not adequately representative. Reducing the quorum to 3 further restricts the variety of opinions and depth of discussions.

Furthermore, to ensure representativeness of the committee, I believe it is mandated by GCP-ICH that the committee must not comprise all doctors, members of the same gender, or same ethnic group.

By these expectations, Minister's composition for the TEC will be very narrow based indeed. Expedient, but too narrow for my liking.

Admittedly you can play the mathematics and still satisfy the conditions (after dinner mental maths for you?), but I think the quality and breadth of the opinions expressed and the related discussions will be much less representative of Singapore society.

Also apart from the composition of the committee, it is perhaps more important to specify the procedural aspects of how the committee will function. I hope this will be forthcoming soon.

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