In its continued efforts to infuse science and medicine with conservative ideology, the Bush administration last Friday appointed 11 members to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP). Formerly the National Human Research Protections Advisory Committee (NHRPAC), the panel was revamped to contain fewer members (11 from 17) and adopt a new charter. Signed by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson last October, the charter now stipulates for the first time that “the welfare of embryos should be considered in the review of clinical research,” according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
The administration has received immediate criticism for its selections. Among the 11 panelists appointed, none are professional patient advocates, the Washington Post reported, whereas the previous NHRPAC contained three such representatives. With most of the new members hailing from research institutions with vested interests in human experiments, the move highlights a clear trend in the administration’s strategy of feigned impartiality (e.g. National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women, FDA Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs, Commission on Equal Opportunity in Athletics).
Alluding to the conflict of interest, Jonathan Moreno, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Biomedical Ethics and former member of the NHRPAC, told the Washington Post he would reject his appointment to the new panel. “You can say all heads of research are patient advocates, but institutional roles do mean something and when it comes time to take a position on research protections the institution or business that you represent makes a difference.”
SACHRP members will serve staggered terms, less than four years. Unless renewed, the committee’s charter will expire in October 2004.