UTHCT vice president served on national panel that recently recommended greater oversight of research involving prisoners

Monday, August 7, 2006

Patricia Blair, Ph.D., JD, vice president and university counsel at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, was on the prestigious national committee that recently recommended greater oversight of research involving prisoners, UTHSCT President Dr. Kirk A. Calhoun said.

Dr. Blair and the 14 other members of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Ethical Considerations for Revisions to Department of Health and Human Services Regulations for Protection of Prisoners Involved in Research produced the report.

“Ethical Considerations for Research Involving Prisoners” says more comprehensive safeguards and greater oversight are needed to ensure that prisoners’ participation in research meets the highest ethical standards and that the research aims to improve the well-being of prisoners.

Most research with prisoners now takes place outside the scope of federal regulations, often without the scrutiny of institutional review boards, the report says. It recommends that Congress require studies that involve prisoners to follow uniform guidelines designed to protect study participants.

In addition, the report urges Congress to create a national system to oversee these programs. It says the federal government should maintain a detailed public database to track all studies involving prisoners.

And the report says these added protections should apply not only to research participants in jails or prisons, but also to those who are on parole, probation, or in community-based programs. The report can be read online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11692.html.

The Institute of Medicine is an independent scientific advisory group that is part of the National Academies. The nationally known and respected institute provides advice that is unbiased, based on evidence, and grounded in science.

Most of the institute’s reports are requested by government agencies and written by unpaid volunteer experts. The committee on the ethics of research was formed in early 2005 and met five times before presenting its final report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Blair wrote her master’s of law thesis on the ethical and legal issues of health care provided to prisoners, studying prison nurses’ perceptions of their patients. She received her master’s of law degree in health law and policy from the University of Houston School of Law.

Dr. Blair received her doctorate in clinical sciences and health services research from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. She received her general law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

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