The incoming head of an international physicians’ association says excessive experiments involving human subjects should be curbed amid the growing range of experiments in this age of advanced medical science.
Eitaka Tsuboi, who will assume the presidency of the World Medical Association during its general assembly this week in Edinburgh, Scotland, said revision of the 1964 WMA Declaration of Helsinki for protection of trial subjects is necessary to strengthen the informed consent system and control various kinds of experiments to protect the rights of human subjects.
Tsuboi, head of the Japan Medical Association, indicated in an interview with Kyodo News that the declaration should be changed to cover experiments that are conducted by nondoctors and aimed at analysis of genetic information and purposes other than medical treatment.
“The informed consent system should also be strengthened to provide test subjects with sufficient explanation of the purpose and risk of experiments in order to obtain their approval,” he said.
Tsuboi, who will become the 52nd WMA president during the five-day assembly beginning Tuesday, said the biggest challenge faced by the international medical body is how to deal with the rapid advances in gene therapy.
“Currently, we cannot keep up with the speed of such advances, and medical ethics, which cover the security of patients, have been called into question,” he said.
Member organizations of the France-based WMA, consisting of physicians from 71 countries, will protest a move to patent data on the genetic makeup of mankind at the general assembly, claiming such action could bring exclusive benefits to certain companies, according to JMA.
Tsuboi raised the growing world population, biological and chemical weapons and land mines as tasks to be tackled by the WMA.
Asked about the fact that Iceland has asked a U.S. company to examine the human genome data of all of its people as a protective health measure, Tsuboi said it is important to apply advanced technologies to medical treatment but warned that excessive application could adversely affect humans.
“To use human genome data and cloning techniques is important, but excessive use could pose major risks to human beings, just as atomic bombs stemmed from nuclear development. I’d like to stress that point as someone from the only country which has suffered atomic-bomb attacks,” he said.
As new president, Tsuboi said he will emphasize the doctors’ duty of balancing scientific advances with medical ethics.
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