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Keywords:

  • institutional review boards;
  • health research ethics

Purpose: To evaluate the recommendation for adding unaffiliated members to institutional review boards (IRB) by comparing the attitudes and influence of IRB members of different backgrounds, primarily nurses, physicians, and unaffiliated members.

Design: Survey.

Method: A closed-ended self-administered questionnaire concerning ethical issues in human subjects research was completed by 284 IRB members in a nonprobability sample of 27 IRBs in 12 U.S. states. The attitudes and influence of IRB members with different backgrounds were compared.

Findings: Nurses rated most of the issues as more important than did all other members; physicians rated most of the issues as less important than did all other members; and unaffiliated IRB members rated the issues similar to the whole. Nurses and unaffiliated members were ranked the least influential IRB members, and IRB chairs and physicians were ranked the most influential.

Conclusions: The responses of the IRB members in this study indicate that adding more unaffiliated members to IRBs is unlikely to increase IRB concerns with ethical issues. Adding more nurse members to IRBs might increase IRB concerns with ethical issues if the level of influence of the nurses is increased.