Ethics Guidelines in Environmental Epidemiology: Their Development and Challenges We Face
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- Cite this article as:
- Kramer, S. & Soskolne, C.L. Curr Envir Health Rpt (2017) 4: 142. doi:10.1007/s40572-017-0138-z
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Purpose of Review
This review integrates historical developments and key events in bringing ethics into epidemiology in general and into environmental epidemiology in particular. The goal is to provide context for and discern among the various approaches and motivations that drive the need for ethical conduct in support of the public interest.
The need for ethics guidelines in epidemiology is different from developments in other biomedical-related fields by virtue of its focus on populations rather than on individuals. The need for ethics guidelines in environmental epidemiology as a subspecialty of epidemiology stems from the larger scale of its mission than that of epidemiology per se.
Ethics guidelines in the field of environmental epidemiology have been established. They articulate not only the profession’s core values and mission, but more specifically, they address the environmental epidemiologist’s obligations to the participants in research, to colleagues, and to employers. They are the product of consensus, scholarship, and diligent stewardship over several decades. The next challenge is ensuring their value and impact. The forces that support professional and institutional success, and the power of special interests, are the major threats to achieving the goals of ethical conduct and research for the public good. In environmental epidemiology, these threats have global implications.