Singapore biomedical ethics centre made WHO collaborating centre

How soon after a disaster can researchers study how to prevent the next disaster rather than focus only on rescue efforts?

When infectious disease epidemics cross borders, how strictly should governments clamp down to prevent their spread?

A biomedical ethics centre here, which studies such ethical questions, has now received international recognition from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Centre for Biomedical Ethics at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Loo Lin medical school was on Wednesday designated a WHO collaborating centre. This means it agrees to do research aligned with the global health body's goals.

It is the first such collaborating centre in Asia, and the WHO's fifth.

The international recognition will also help the centre raise more funds for research, said its director, Professor Alastair Campbell.

The National University Health System, which runs the medical school with NUS, also launched a dedicated programme, called the Paediatrics Ethics and Advocacy Centre (Peace), to study, advise doctors on, and educate the public on ethical issues related to children's medical care.

Peace was born of a donation to the National University Hospital paediatrics department by the estate of banker and philanthropist Khoo Teck Puat, revealed its director, Associate Professor Roy Joseph.

Prof Joseph said it would study, among other things, how parents and children make decisions when children fall ill, how to include adolescents in decisions, and what to do when parents lack the coverage or means to treat children.

The launch, held on Wednesday at NUS' Kent Ridge Guild House, marked the start of a two-day workshop for some 40 local and international researchers on paediatric medical and research ethics.