STATEMENT OF THE COMMITTEE ON BIOETHICS OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS 08 April 2020

08.04.2020

Taking into account the strained situation with the spread of coronavirus disease throughout the world and relying on the statement of the UNESCO International Bioethics Committee (IBC),  Committee on Bioethics of the Republic of Belarus brings to public notice the need to comply with the most important bioethical principles and rules in a pandemic situation. Each of us can make our own contribution to the protection of oneself, one's relatives and society as a whole.

  1. The guarantee of respecting human rights and the bioethical principle of personal autonomy just as a mutual respect and defense for personal security is the basis of public safety. Possible restrictions of individual’s  autonomy which the state undertakes or will undertake in the form of social distance, restrictive measures, the requirements of maximum self-isolation, etc., are justified from the standpoint of bioethics. These measures are appropriate as a step to protect the health and well-being of citizens. Failure to comply with the requirements of specialists in the prevention and treatment of diseases, nonobservance of the sanitary and anti-epidemic regime, as well as non-compliance with the requirements of self-discipline in current situation should be considered as a low social responsibility, disrespect for human rights, people and society as a whole.
  2. Given the scale of information received by the population via various channels, including social networks, we believe that the distribution of inaccurate information on public health issues and panic mood in different sorts of informational resources is unacceptable. Dissemination of information about the state of health of people (if not caused by the need to implement anti-epidemic measures) should be recognized as not complying with the principles and rules of bioethics and legal standards. We draw attention to the inadmissibility of using  personal data of patients who are in medical institutions and / or under medical supervision, their relatives, especially in cases of unconfirmed diagnosis, serious condition and death in the media and social networks
  3. We believe that the priority attention today should be paid to the problems of vulnerable population – first of all, persons with disabilities, elderly people, refugees, people infected with Covid-19 or suffering from other serious diseases, and other categories of citizens. We urge you to provide them with possible assistance, to prevent manifestations of discrimination expressed in disrespect, neglect, intimidation, termination of communication, lack of moral and physical support.
  4. We note that the crucial issue of the health system with growing number of cases becomes the problem of distribution and rational use of available resources. In accordance with the principle of justice, everyone should have access to medical care. In the event of an emergency, we consider it correct and justified to establish clear and transparent criteria for the priority of medical care for people who need it urgently, which is a manifestation of the effectiveness and humanity of medicine. All disputes should be resolved collectively. An important role in the adoption and justification of such decisions is assigned to medical consultations and commissions on medical ethics and deontology of health institutions.
  5. We urge biomedical investigators to strictly observe the ethical principles of research. The urgency of the tasks should not impede the scientific and ethical literacy, which strengthens the responsibility of local ethical committees.
  6. Given an increase in the spread of infection and the lack of randomized controlled trials of the specific treatment efficacy, we recommend to medical professionals competently study and explain the scientifically and clinically reasonable use of medicines (registered or unregistered in the country), which are not directly intended for the treatment / prevention of coronavirus disease. The main purpose of the prescription of drugs should be to inform the patient and assess their benefit and risks.
  7. Observing the dedication and courage of health professionals who daily do their duty under these conditions, and showing the deepest respect for their work, we urge them to remain committed to the principles and rules of bioethics in the provision of medical care, putting the interests of the patient above their own.
  8. We remind fellow citizens of the need to take responsibility for their health, strictly comply with all sanitary and anti-epidemic requirements, provide all possible assistance to vulnerable population, appreciate and respect the work of health professionals who are fighting for people's lives.
  9. We express our solidarity with the world community, to all people who have been affected by the pandemic, and our readiness for all-round cooperation and mutual assistance in order to quickly overcome the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and its consequences.


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