Institutional Ethics Committees (IECs) "have become a standard vehicle for the education of health professionals about biomedical ethics, for the drafting and review of hospital policy, and for clinical ethics case consultation" (AAP,2001).
There are three main roles of IECs: 1) IEC deliberations have served as evidence in courts of law, 2) IECs can serve as an alternative to judicial reviews, and 3) the requirement of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) that every health care organization have an established mechanism to address conflicts (AAP, 2001).
How might IEC's ensure the enforcement of policies within a healthcare organization?
AAP. (2001) Institutional Ethics Committees. Retrieved November 19, 2013 fromhttp://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;107/1/205
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An IEC (Institutional Ethics Committee) is an internal yet independent body within a clinical health care organization. They are sometimes called Institutional Review Boards, and their main function is to protect human health and ethical interests within a clinical setting. They are most often associated with health care organizations that conduct clinical research involving humans like clinical trials for new drugs or medical procedures. Since they are not legal or law enforcement organizations (only organizations within private companies or public institutions), they have no legal or law enforcement mechanisms to impose upon clinical staff and investigators. This all begs the question, how can they enforce ethics policies within their own organizations? One important way they can do this is to influence the organizations that fund the research. If the IEC withdraws support or approval from the research based on compliance with ethical codes in a public fashion, the funding bodies can then withdraw financial support for the organization, thus effectively shutting down the work in question. And if a health care investigator or staff member is seen as responsible for the withdrawal of funding, they will most certainly lose their job within the organization.
Another way for an IEC to enforce compliance is to publicly sanction any staff person found to be in non-compliance. Most people will not want to be seen as sanctioned and will then voluntarily comply with the rules, again for fear of reprisal from the management. One final method to ensure compliance is to order an audit of the person or work in question. An audit is performed by an independent, third party person or organization for the purpose of evaluating the work in question from a totally non-biased perspective. The results of the audit are then made available to the health care organization for the management to study and take into account in deciding on a course of action.
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