The terms of reference of the Bioethics Advisory Committee are:
- To examine ethical, legal and social issues arising from research on human biology and behaviour and its applications; and
- To develop and recommend policies to the Singapore Government, on ethical, legal and social issues, with the aim of protecting the rights and welfare of individuals, while allowing the biomedical sciences to develop and realise their full potential for the benefit of humankind.
The Committee will focus on the following 3 thrusts:
- Protection of the rights and welfare of individuals;
- Public education & a source of information on bioethical issues; and
- Identify broad principles to govern the ethical, legal and social implications of human biology research
What the BAC is and is not
The BAC is a policy advisory body, not an executive body. It has no supervisory or regulatory power. Its remit is to examine ethical, legal and social issues arising from research on human biology and behaviour and its applications; and to develop and recommend policies on such issues. The aim is to protect the rights and welfare of individuals, while allowing the biomedical sciences to develop and realise their full potential for the benefit of humankind. Consequently, the BAC makes policy recommendations in respect of biomedical research ethics, having regard to social and legal as well as ethical concerns. It therefore:
- Considers and recommends policy in biomedical research ethics, taking into account international best practice and locally relevant concerns or issues;
- Supports and implements public education initiatives in bioethics, alone or in collaboration with other agencies;
- Liaises with other similar bodies elsewhere and engages in bioethics issues internationally through activities such as conference participation, BAC visits to overseas centres, and the organising of events relevant to advancing bioethics; and
- Publishes reports, consultation papers, or other documents reflecting its activities.
The following fall outside the remit of the BAC:
- The BAC does not adjudicate individual research proposals. It has no supervisory or executive power to affect the review of specific ethics boards (Institutional Review Boards). The BAC is only an advisory body; it does not enforce.
- The BAC does not consider appeals against IRB decisions or practices. The BAC does monitor the state of biomedical research in Singapore, as part of an ongoing remit to consider the legal, ethical and social implications of biomedical research. It also has an interest in determining the consequences of its recommendations when implemented. However, it has no authority over the decision made by any IRB or other body involved in the evaluation or governance of research.
- The BAC does not comment on treatment issues, such as the suitability of particular treatments.
- The BAC does not make any recommendation in respect of clinical medical ethics, as such matters are managed by the Ministry of Health, the National Medical Ethics Committee, and the Singapore Medical Council.
While the BAC shares a wider concern that research involving human participants should also be appropriately managed, such that the interest of participants are protected while valuable research is encouraged, its remit is confined to biomedical research. It therefore does not make recommendations in respect of research with humans that do not fall within its definition of biomedical research.
- The BAC makes no recommendations on the use of animals in research insofar as these raise matters of animal welfare. The use of animals in research in Singapore is governed by the provisions of the National Advisory Committee for Laboratory Animal Research (NACLAR), set up in 2003 and administered through the Ministry of National Development. However, where the use of animals in biomedical research raises issues through the combination of human and animal tissues, or affects the welfare of human research participants, then the BAC is properly involved, and has previously made recommendations on such matters.
- The BAC is not a watchdog body put in place to monitor or check the government or researchers and their institutions. It is put in place to ensure, through its recommendations, that best ethical practice in biomedical research is ascertained and encouraged.