Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
VALDEZ-MARTINEZ, Edith; LIFSHITZ-GUINZBERG, Alberto; MEDESIGO-MICETE, José and BEDOLLA, Miguel. Institutional ethics committees in Mexico: the ambiguous boundary between health care ethics and research ethics. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2008, vol.24, n.2, pp.85-90. ISSN 1680-5348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892008000800002.
OBJECTIVE: To identify ethics committees in medical practice in Mexico and possible implications stemming from their composition and functions. METHODS: A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted from January-December 2005. A survey was sent by e-mail to the hospitals and family medicine centers with at 10 practices within the Mexican Institute for Social Security (Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social) (n = 437) and the Institute for Security and Social Services for State Employees (Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado) (n = 167) and to the Mexican Ministry of Health's most important health care centers (n= 15). The following items were analyzed: name of the committee, date of formation, current status, composition, functions, and level of authority. RESULTS: In all, 116 committees were identified, with various names. Of these, 101 (87.1%) were active. The committees were formed from 1985-2006, with a spike occurring in 2004-2005. Of the active committees, 59 (58.4%) were charged with ethical problems/dilemmas related to clinical practice as well as those related to research projects. Of the committee members, 357 (59.0%) held managing positions in the establishment to which the committee pertained; most were medical professionals (71.5%), followed by nursing staff (11.9%). Among the members of the active committees, 77.9% had not received training in ethics. CONCLUSIONS: Legal conflicts can be expected, mainly within the organizations whose committees have the authority to determine a course of action. An integrated plan is needed that will set standards for the composition and proceedings of Mexico's ethics committees and the improved training of committee members.
Keywords : Ethics committees; clinical; ethics committees; research; Mexico.