Gleaner Bioethics Forum
Members of the National Bioethics Committee of Jamaica (NBCJ) believe the Government has failed to include them in critical areas of decision making to address some of the ills facing the country.
The NBCJ was established in 2008 through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Assisting Bioethics Committees (ABC) initiative. The initiative focuses on the establishment and capacity building of national bioethics committees across the world.
They aim to provide advice on ethical problems in clinical settings, formulate recommendations and contribute to the preparation of guidelines on issues. In addition, the organisation aims to assess the relevant ethical, legal, scientific and social issues related to research projects involving human beings and provide advice on ethical problems in clinical settings within the scope of the UNESCO Declaration, which is to foster debate, education and public awareness of, and engagement in, bioethics. While addressing a Gleaner Editors’ Forum, Professor Tunde Bewaji, chairman of the committee and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Mona (in pic), said the committee has a lot to offer in terms of investigation and providing recommendations to address gaps that exist.
“It could be better in terms of the kind of dialogue that we would have wanted. Maybe if they had to pay consultants, we would see better results, but due to the fact that it is voluntary, I think that’s a factor as to the value being given our contributions,” he told journalists at The Gleaner’s North Street, Kingston, office.
“We are not absent or totally ignored, but at the same time, we would love to be used to solve problems, address issues and investigate things as the need arises,” he continued.
He was supported by committee member Donna McKoy, who resolved to be proactive in voicing concerns and also providing solutions. “I think we can be a lot more useful, but we are still not going to sit down and wait till an invitation comes. This (Editors’ Forum) is a good day for us because we have the opportunity to be more visible. We now have to prove that we are a force to be reckoned with, and that is what we are prepared to do going forward,”she declared. “We are prepared to call a strike if they don’t listen to us going forward.” said Vincent Morrison, newly appointed member. The appointment of members was confirmed on September 27, 2008 and a formal launch ceremony was held on October 1, 2009. Jamaica is the first English-speaking Caribbean country to establish such a committee.