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The University of Southampton
Southampton Law School

Law School academic appointed to NHS Research Ethics Committee

Published: 25 August 2016

Dr James MacLean, Southampton Law School, has been appointed to serve as a member of the NHS 'South Central - Hampshire A' Research Ethics Committee (REC) from 09 August 2016.

RECs consist of up to 15 members from both clinical and non-clinical backgrounds, with members appointed by the Health Research Authority. Their role is to protect and promote the interests of both patients and the public in health and social research, and to streamline the regulation of research. This involves checking that people are provided with the information they need to help them decide whether they wish to take part in research, and providing an opinion as to whether the research proposed is ethical.

Managed through the Research Ethics Service, there are two NHS RECs based in Southampton, each of which is supported from the Bristol HRA Centre. Members receive training in ethical review and have opportunities to debate challenging issues, including thinking about issues from the perspective of a potential research participant.

“It is hugely important for any Law School that its academics find ways to utilise their skills and experience for the benefit of wider society,” says James. “This voluntary position provides an opportunity for me to engage with live, complex issues in a real and meaningful way.”

Health research can take many forms, from clinical trials of drugs through to qualitative research studies. Each type of research has its own set of benefits and risks, and raises a variety of different ethical issues, all of which need to be considered in the approval process.

Research ethics is a hotly debated topic that is never far from the public gaze and the relationship between law and ethics is a complex one, fraught with many inherent tensions and contradictions. This is important in the context of healthcare research, where the interfaces of law and politics and economics with ethics are always clearly visible.

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