Mar 28 - Apr 3, 2011

Former Dean Cambridge University UK, Prof. John Biggs has conducted a series of three workshops on "Medical Ethics" at the University of Health Sciences (UHS), Lahore.

The workshops were attended by more than 70 faculty members from affiliated medical colleges. Prof. Biggs presented different case scenarios including video recordings about various aspects of ethical practice. Ethical dilemmas faced by a doctor in Pakistan were also discussed.

Addressing on the occasion, Prof. John Biggs said that adherence to principles of ethics in medical practice is inadequate in Pakistan. "Formal training in bioethics should be incorporated in undergraduate and postgraduate medical training so that the healthcare providers understand the concept, process, and application of medical ethics," he said.

Prof. Biggs maintained that while most western countries had enshrined the concepts of informed consent, privacy and confidentiality in federal or state laws and code of ethics, such law-making was almost non-existent in Pakistan although there had been some recent efforts to create ethical guidelines for research and medical practice.

He further said that cultural values in Pakistan offered a challenge to the practice of medical ethics. "This is because crucial decision making is often done by family members or is left entirely up to the doctor," he explained, adding that public awareness of their rights to informed consent and privacy was often low.

Earlier, while addressing the workshop on "Biological Data Analysis with Hands-on Training on Statistical Software," Prof. Dr. John Biggs said that almost half of the literature published in medical journals around the world is leading people astray because the standards in the use of statistics in medical research are generally low. "A growing body of literature points to persistent statistical errors, flaws, and deficiencies in most medical journals," said Prof. Dr. John Biggs.

Prof. Biggs was of the view that careful and accurate use of statistics in medical research was of major importance and, therefore, must be enforced emphatically. "The use of statistics in medical diagnosis and biomedical research may affect whether individuals live or die, whether their health is protected or jeopardized, and whether medical science advances or gets sidetracked," he opined.

Prof. Biggs further said that problem was a serious one, as the inappropriate use of statistical analysis might lead to incorrect conclusions, artificial research results and a waste of valuable resources.

He pointed out that according to a research, serious statistical errors were found in 40 per cent articles published in a renowned psychiatry journal.

UHS Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Malik H. Mubbashar said on the occasion that medical researches had to be encouraged to learn more about statistics. Statisticians should be involved early in study design, as mistake at this point could have major repercussions, negatively affecting all subsequent stages of medical research, he added. He further said that inappropriate use of statistical method and technique caused loss of time and cost and it could be misleading to other scientific researchers.

The facilitator of the workshop Waqas Sami said that inappropriate use of statistical methods was found in every stage of medical research related to data analysis, design of the experiment, data collection and pre-processing, analysis method, implementation, and interpretation.

He said that Pakistani researchers lagged behind in research publications because of not having enough statistical knowledge. He claimed that in Pakistan, 69 various categories of medical journals were being published which were never audited for statistical flaws. He added that 80 per cent of these medical journals were without expert biostatisticians.

Sami was of the view that the workshop would help young researchers in developing a clear understanding of analyzing biological data, using correct statistical methods including interpretation of results and reporting in statistical language.