Reviews Personal views

Two decades on an ethics committee

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 09 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:615
  1. George Masterton, consultant psychiatrist (
  1. department of psychological medicine, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

    Iam in my 20th year of continuous service on research ethics committees and my 15th as an office holder. It is time to take stock. I do so aware that a lot has been written about ethics committees by researchers, most of it highly critical, whereas committee members have published much less about their experiences and views.

    When I began, a senior colleague cautioned that ethics committee duties were not the route to wealth, prestige, or foreign travel: these were the privileges of the researchers. Our main rewards were intangible: protecting patients from bad research and contributing to the greater good. Altruism wasn't the only motivation, however: the work promised stimulating intellectual challenges and the ability to keep abreast of medical developments as they unfolded. And so it has proved.

    It is a rare pleasure to receive a submission from an investigator who knows how to design a trial

    What wasn't mentioned when …

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