Ethics & Engagement across the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programmes
In November 2014, I presented a poster on valid consent for adolescents at the 63rd annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine meeting in New Orleans. The ASTMH annual conference is the biggest meeting for researchers working in tropical medicine attracting about 4000-5000 delegates each year. This year’s meeting was very special. Bill Gates gave the key note address. His speech was very moving and I thought that he was indeed very impressive. He talked about malaria elimination, child mortality and other neglected diseases. He did not come to see my poster though!
My poster argued that minors should be allowed to consent for medical research in their own right if the requirements for valid consent are met and the study meets the usual scientific and ethical criteria. International guidelines stipulate that for minors to participate in medical research, consent must be obtained from their parents or guardians. Significant numbers of minors particularly in low income settings are currently being ruled out of research participation because either their parents are unavailable or they refuse to provide consent. These minors may not live with their parents, are married and make important decisions in their daily lives.
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