Bioethics program profiled in Nature

A number of institutions are following in the footsteps of the medical school program that offers ethical consulting to scientists who are wrestling with moral dilemmas in their research projects, according to an article in the April 27 issue of the journal Nature.

David Magnus, PhD, and Mildred Cho, PhD, director and associate director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, established the consulting service last year and have provided guidance to seven research groups since October.

"Bench-side consultations are a way of integrating ethical thinking into a scientist's everyday life," Magnus said. He explained that services such as this one shouldn't be expected to prevent misconduct, but that it helps to promote greater ethical understanding in younger scientists and thus helps to prevent missteps later on.

The article says that the service "is designed to help researchers identify the ethical and social issues that arise in their work and aims to complement, not replace, the bodies that regulate human and animal studies." It adds that the service "is voluntary, not mandatory, and it yields confidential advice, rather than edict."

According to the story, Duke and Case Western Reserve Universities are among the schools now setting up similar programs.