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Editorial Highlights Need for Changes in Ethics of Biomedical Research

January 18, 2011

Seattle Children’s Research Institute bioethicists urge scientific community to address long-standing systemic shortcomings 

Today bioethicists from Seattle Children’s Research Institute urged the medical research community to reexamine its current practices and culture that allowed a researcher to publish fabricated data in a study that, in turn, created a worldwide scare over a supposed link between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. In a British Medical Journal (BMJ), editorial accompanying a series of reports in the publication, Douglas J. Opel, MD, MPH, Douglas S. Diekema, MD and Edgar K. Marcuse, MD of Seattle Children’s Research Institute stressed the need for the medical research community to address the multiple system failures involved within the biomedical research enterprise that permitted such egregious misconduct.

The authors outline an approach to framing research incidents, such as those examined in the BMJ analysis, as adverse events, akin to clinical adverse events. The editorial emphasizes that the medical community already has the tools for investigating adverse events, and the system malfunctions that allow them to occur.

Opel and co-authors also urged the research community to rethink and reform the customs and culture in which research is conducted and reported. “The disastrous impact that this study has had on vaccine coverage, recrudescence of disease, public trust, and, most of all, science, requires that we make these changes in haste,” the editorial reports.

About Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention and bioethics, among others. As part of Seattle Children’s Hospital, the research institute brings together leading minds in pediatric research to provide patients with the best care possible. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, which consistently ranks as one of the best pediatric departments in the country. For more information, visit

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