NUS centre to collaborate with WHO on bioethics

SINGAPORE - How soon after a disaster can researchers study how to prevent the next disaster, rather than focus only on rescue efforts?

When infectious disease epidemics cross borders, how strictly should governments clamp down to prevent their spread?

A biomedical ethics centre in Singapore which studies such ethical questions has won international recognition from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the Yong Loo Lin medical school of the National University of Singapore (NUS) was designated a WHO collaborating centre yesterday.

This means some of the centre's research will specifically be aligned with the global health body's bioethics goals. These include, for example, ethical issues around cross-border infectious diseases or long- term care.

It is the first such collaborating centre in Asia, and the WHO's fifth.

The international recognition will help the centre raise more funds for research, said its director, Professor Alastair Campbell.

Yesterday, the National University Health System, which runs the medical school with NUS, also launched a dedicated programme called the Paediatrics Ethics and Advocacy Centre (Peace).

The Peace programme will study, advise doctors, and educate the public on ethical issues related to children's medical care.

Peace was born of a donation to the National University Hospital paediatrics department by the estate of banker and philanthropist Khoo Teck Puat, said its director Roy Joseph.

Associate Professor Joseph said it will study, among other things, how parents and children make decisions when children fall ill; how to include adolescents in decisions; and what to do when parents and doctors disagree.

The 10-person programme consists of seven doctors, a medical social worker, a lawyer and a nurse manager.

The launch, held yesterday at the NUS Society's Kent Ridge Guild House, marked the start of a two-day workshop on paediatric medical and research ethics attended by about 60 local and global experts.

Among the issues discussed at the workshop was a situation where the parents decline blood transfusions against doctors' advice because their religious beliefs forbid the procedure.

This article was published on April 3 in The Straits Times.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.