Community involvement in the ethical review of genetic research: lessons from American Indian and Alaska Native populations.
The National Bioethics Advisory Commission has proposed that regulatory oversight for research with human subjects be extended beyond the protection of individual research participants to include the protection of social groups. To accomplish this, the commission recommends that investigators and ethics review boards a) work directly with community representatives to develop study methods that minimize potential group harms, b) discuss group implications as part of the informed consent process, and c) consider group harms in reporting research results. We examine the utility of these recommendations in the context of research with American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Because much attention has been given to the question of how best to consult with members of these communities in the design and conduct of research, we believe it behooves investigators to consider the lessons to be learned from research involving American Indians and Alaska Natives. After describing several difficulties surrounding the application of the commission's approach to these research contexts, we propose a research agenda to develop best practices for working with local communities in the ethical assessment of epidemiologic and environmental health research.