Winter 2011: Features

Policy in Practice

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“Ethics Ed”

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Like all research universities, Emory perches on a bridge that spans a rushing torrent of ethical questions and quandaries. But a wide web of safety nets woven across the institution is designed to protect the integrity of scholarship, research, teaching, and health care—and keep individuals from tumbling over the side.

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is the primary body charged with overseeing research protocol. Its purpose is to “protect the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in research,” ensuring compliance with federal regulations for the protection of research subjects. The IRB administers two committees for biomedical research, totaling about one hundred members from across and outside Emory, that meet three times a month; and one committee for social, humanist, and behavioral research that meets monthly.

Anyone who has access to protected patient information, whether at Emory Healthcare or Emory University, must follow federal and state privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Human subjects are not the only ones protected; Yerkes National Primate Research Center is fully accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International, regarded as the gold seal of approval for the humane care of laboratory animals.

Emory has an Internal Audit Division whose mission is to provide independent, objective evaluation of institutional operations and processes in both Emory University and Emory Healthcare. The division provides routine audits, consultations, and advisory services to University management. It also oversees the Emory Trust Line, a whistleblower hotline staffed by an outside company that any Emory employee is encouraged to call to report suspicion of theft, fraud, waste or abuse, conflict of interest, or billing misconduct.

In 1994, Emory spearheaded the creation of the Health Care Ethics Consortium of Georgia, a statewide network of representatives from forty-three health organizations that share a common interest in bringing ethics analysis to patient care and organizational issues. The consortium works with Georgia lawmakers on legislation affecting health care ethics and offers workshops, continuing education, and on-site consultation for professionals across the field. Emory’s Center for Ethics houses and staffs the consortium.

All faculty involved in sponsored research must work with the University Conflict of Interest (COI) Office. Established in 2008, the office was created to oversee and manage potential conflicts of interest for faculty and staff members engaged in research and other professional activities.

In 2009, Emory’s School of Medicine issued a new, comprehensive policy on industry relations to further strengthen and clarify University conflict-of-interest guidelines. In a climate of increasing complexity when it comes to federal funding and the relationship between academic research and industry, the new rules were aimed at managing these relationships and overseeing (and in some cases, limiting) the financial benefit to scientists from activities such as public speaking, education, and start-up companies.

All Emory College students are required to sign the Honor Code pledge in their first year, agreeing that they will uphold the highest standards of academic integrity and will not participate in cheating in any form. For more on the Honor Code and the University’s Honor Council, see the story “Peer Review”.

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