Objective: The objectives of this study are to understand the current functions, structure and operation of hospital ethics committees (HECs) in Shanghai and to facilitate their improvement.
Methods: (1) A questionnaire survey, (2) interviews with secretaries and (3) on-site document reviews of HECs in Shanghai were used in the study, which surveyed 33 hospitals.
Results: In Shanghai, 57.56% of the surveyed hospitals established HECs from 1998 to 2005. Most HECs used bioethical review of research involving human subjects as well as bioethical review or consultation regarding medical care services and administrative decision- making. Of the surveyed HECs, 14.3% did not provide any formal bioethical training to the HECs’ members and many HECs had no standard operating procedures. Some HECs had no clear definition of what was “conflict of interest” that should be considered by the HECs, while 44.4% of the HECs did not perform continuing review.
Discussion: After the issues of related national regulations, more and more hospitals established HECs in Shanghai, but the functions of HECs need to be further developed and formal training on bioethics should be provided to HEC members. To assure the independence and good performance of HECs, the conflict of interest procedure, the standard operating procedures and bioethical review should be improved.
Conclusion: HECs in Shanghai had developed in the preceding 10 years and they played great roles in protecting the rights and welfare of human subjects and patients; some areas need improvement.
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Funding: The study was made possible by the research funding provided by the Shanghai Municipal Health Bureau.
Competing interests: None declared.
Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.