Bioethics Advisory Committee seeks community feedback on human tissue research
Consultation paper distributed to 66 community groups in Singapore, including religious, medical and public interest groups to obtain their views
Since its appointment in December 2000, the Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) has formed three Subcommittees to focus on the specific issues of Human Stem Cell Research, Human Genetics, and Publicity. In particular, the Human Genetics Subcommittee (HGS) was formed to address the ethical, legal and social issues arising specifically from human genetics research in Singapore. The list of Human Genetics Subcommittee members is attached in Annexe 1 for your reference.
Over the past months, the HGS has considered and debated relevant scientific, ethical and legal issues arising in the field of human tissue banking and research. This was achieved through consultation with local experts, commissioned papers, and internal deliberations. In its paper, the HGS also considered and took into account positions and guidelines already adopted or recommended in other leading jurisdictions.
The HGS has prepared a consultation paper entitled “Human Tissue Research”. In this paper, the HGS addresses and advances interim recommendations on some of the more pressing issues in the field of human tissue banking and research in Singapore.
The paper covers the following key issues relating to human tissue research and human tissue banking:
- Ethical and legal concerns, in particular, with regards to the use of human tissue in research;
- Ethical guidelines governing the taking of human tissue samples, and for research access to such samples;
- Related issues of confidentiality and consent in the usage of human tissues;
- The proper framework for the operational governance of human tissue banking in Singapore.
Said Associate Professor Terry Kaan, Chairman of the Human Genetics Subcommittee: “Research on human tissue underpins much of the advances in the biomedical sciences which have contributed so much to our health and well-being. For instance, a great deal of what we know about various forms of cancers have been derived from research on human tissue. Through such research, important discoveries in the prevention, control and treatment of such diseases have been made, and continue to be made, for the benefit of humankind”. Associate Professor Kaan added that “As we have pointed out in our Report, human tissue research is likely to assume a more important role in the future as new uses for the information derived from human tissue research are discovered. Most notably, almost all forms of genetic and genomic research use human tissue, directly or indirectly, as the starting point of their investigations. It is therefore important that an effective legal and ethical framework is developed to allow the full potential of human tissue research to be tapped, while at the same time, to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected through the establishment of appropriate ethical guidelines and standards for the conduct of human tissue banking and research.”
The consultation paper was distributed to 66 organisations on Wednesday, ;27 February 2002, and the respective organisations have been requested to submit their feedback to the BAC by 13 March 2002. The HGS also invites and welcomes feedback from the public on the issues concerning human tissue research. Those interested to obtain a copy of the consultation paper and/ or to submit feedback may write to the BAC Secretariat at 250 North Bridge Road, #15-01/02 Raffles City Tower, Singapore 179101. Alternatively, the Secretariat can also be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The BAC expects to prepare recommendations on these issues for the Life Sciences Ministerial Committee in the upcoming months.
The Bioethics Advisory Committee (BAC) was appointed by the Government in December 2000 to address the ethical, legal and social issues arising from research on human biology and behaviour, and its applications. It is chaired by Prof Lim Pin, University Professor at the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Faculty of Medicine. The BAC is charged to develop and recommend policies to the Life Sciences Ministerial Committee on these issues, with the aim of protecting the rights and welfare of individuals, while allowing the biomedical sciences to develop and realize its full potential for the benefit of mankind.
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HUMAN GENETICS SUBCOMMITTEE MEMBERS
Assoc/Prof Terry Kaan, Chairman
Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore
Mr Jeffrey Chan,
Head, Civil Division,
Dr Samuel Chong
Dept of Paediatrics, National University Hospital
Dr Ong Toon Hui
Director, Elderly Development Division
Ministry of Community Development and Sports
Prof Yap Hui Kim
Faculty of Medicine, NUS