Yesterday a bland email floated into my inbox and sat there for a few hours before I eventually opened it. What it contained was the result of two years work by a well-known clinical researcher to gain approval for a small ‘proof of concept’ research project to investigate the phenomenon of why some patients need more frequent injections than others. For two years the society and the team of researchers has had to convince the regional medical ethics committee that overseas the university where the project will take place, that every, and I mean every practical step has been taken to ensure that the human tissues that will be involved in the project will be accounted for the duration of the research. At times it seemed that the requirements of the committee were unreasonable and although approval was denied just once every subsequent submission was returned with requests for more information, more names of responsible individuals, more clarification of procedures etc. Well, anyway we’ve now got permission for the research to go ahead.
It’s over two years since we first asked for volunteers to put their names forward and now I will have to dig around the files in the office to find the list of participants. The volunteer who was looking after the file has long disappeared into medical school but I’m sure it will be found. I suppose it’s time to switch on the freezer that will be used to store the tissue samples – it’s over a year since we purchased it and everyday it has been a reminder that the project is yet to get under way.
It does seem like a lot of bureaucratic red tape but the ethics committee has to make sure that the tissue samples are treated with due respect and are accounted for at all times. This is because in the past, when research programs have been conducted, body parts and other items belonging to participants have gone missing or ended up in all manner of strange places. Unscrupulous or careless researchers in the past has meant that strict controls are now in place to ensure that the dignity and respect of those involved in the research is observed. And our little experiment is not different – even if the body tissues that we will be using are lowly stool samples.