Human experiments and ethics – Global Health matters. 

Global Health can serve as an incubator to facilitate understanding of trans-disciplinary best practice approaches. The WHO is demonstrating its new approach to global health with swift action for basic research standards. Responding to the international scandal on targeted genetic intervention in humans,the WHO Director General talks about gene having unintended consequences and that the WHO is establishing a team of experts to study ethical and safety issues around it.

Why is this a Global Health matter? 

Genetic manipulation in humans has implications that go beyond simple ethical and safety concerns. It has long-term societal concerns.  A fair analysis, for an issue like this needs to be seen from the prism of various disciplines and cultures. On the normative side, failures of the current governance system, without making it abstract or blaming it on individuals only is required.

As a discipline, global health can  focus on the interplay of relevant factors to explain how the current system might even support or help disguise such wrongs on a structural level. As such, it can  include the business and politics of science, research communication, the constraints under which many researchers are forced to exercise their ‘scientific freedom’,  and capacity of scientists with respect to ethics. Global health can thus serve as a discipline help  understand health-related justice and integrity within and across contextual settings.

What is at stake? 

In order to safeguard science as a viable elementary contributor to individual, social and global health, the most pressing challenge at this point seems, how to reconfirm the credibility of science. This cannot be done through a top-down regulatory approach that rests upon compliance.

From a holistic Humboldtean concept of science’s view, the genesis of knowledge depends upon the discretion of the researcher, within the understood bounds of responsibility. Regulators cannot be successful without a strong and reliable professional self-governance as a partner.

Under conditions of quickly emerging science systems, with aspirations towards cutting-edge outcome delivery, the relevant experiences of European science governance should to be shared and made accessible, through education in theory, history and culture of science. This could work out against the new eugenics promoted by some voices in th field of „gene-editing“, even by coining this term.

Global Health can play an emancipatory role for the sciences under duress, as they become more politically and economically disenfranchised. This requires the full utilization of all resources in trans-disciplinary set education and purpose-true collaborative governance.

After all, adherence to a course of prevention and self-strengthening is the best ways to stay healthy.

About the Author

Dr. Ole Döring (Ph.D., Habil. Phil) is a German Philosopher, Sinologist and Ethicist. He is the co-founder of the Institute for Global Health, Berlin, a Thinktank to promote the conceptual advancement of Global Health and related policy advice.

Competing Interest:
I have read and understood the BMJ Group Conflicts of Interests Policy and declare I do not have any conflicts of interest
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