Temple University Hospital delayed a study that was originally scheduled to start last spring, primarily due to a lack of adequate community outreach, which raised ethical questions.
Titled the Philadelphia Immediate Transport for Penetrating Injuries Trial, the study would have tested two different methods for treatment of life-threatening gunshot and stab wounds: basic care and advanced care.
The study would randomly assign basic or advanced care to patients at every trauma center in Philadelphia. Then, doctors would collect data about the success rates of each type of care, thus determining best practice for treatment of gunshot and stab wounds.
It will be difficult to obtain consent for participation in this study, since all participants will be in the midst of battling life-threatening injuries.
We’re relieved TUH isn’t rushing into the study. Although we understand it’s a pressing issue — Philadelphia had 236 gun-related homicides in 2015 — we can already see some ethical gray areas.
It would be unfortunate to see such an important study compromised due to a lack of accessible information. It’s unethical to get started with the study until officials at TUH are sure that residents of Philadelphia, including the Temple community, are educated about its effects.
“If I had endless hours in a week, I would personally talk to every single person and explain why this has to be done,” said Dr. Zoe Maher, an assistant professor of surgery at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine and a trauma surgeon at TUH.
We’re grateful for TUH’s commitment to conducting ethical studies. Informing the community is an essential first step to any study conducted in Philadelphia.