On 13 June 2012 the Ministry of Health’s seven ethics committees were formally disestablished and the new stream-lined, clinical trials-focused, pharmaceutical industry-friendly system with its four new ethics committees was established. It even came with a brand new website: http://www.ethics.health.govt.nz/
The four new ethics committees have only eight members instead of 12, resulting in a loss of expertise and a significant reduction in lay representation. Like their predecessors, the four committees are “ministerial committees” whose members are appointed by the Minister of Health. The new committees are called Northern A (Ryall’s Folly), Northern B (Ryall’s Foolery), Central (Ryall’s Flunky) and Southern (Ryall’s Fault).
At the same time the new “Standard Operating Procedures” for the new ethics committees took effect, thus completing the gradual dismantling of the world-class ethics committee system established in the wake of the Cartwright Inquiry to protect the interests of the patients, now known as research participants.
There was opposition to the proposed changes. Women’s health groups protested, wrote letters, submissions and articles in an effort to draw attention to what was happening. We weren’t the only ones. As described in an article in the February 2012 issue of the AWHC newsletter, five professors published an open letter to Minister of Health Tony Ryall regarding the proposed changes. They were the head of Otago University’s bioethics centre, Professor Gareth Jones, Professors Donald Evans, Charlotte Paul, John McCall and Auckland University’s Professor Tim Dare.
Their letter stated there were major concerns about the processes around the creation and implementation of the new policy and referred to major flaws in the quality of information received by the Select Committee that led to these changes.
It all fell on deaf ears as those in charge of the final unravelling of the ethics committee system of patient protection had dollars in their sights.
Northern A has its first meeting at 1pm Wednesday 25 July 2012 at Novotel at 72-112 Greenlane Road East, Auckland.
Northern B will meet at 12 noon on Wednesday 1 August at Novotel, 7 Alma Street, Hamilton.
Central is due to meet at 12 noon on Tuesday 24 July at the Terrace Conference Centre, 114 The Terrace, Wellington.
Southern is scheduled to meet at 12 noon on Tuesday 7 August at Copthorne Hotel at 449 Memorial Drive, Christchurch.
These meetings are open to the public so do go along and check out how the new committees are coping with their new stream-lined work loads.