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Sippel, Daniel; Marckmann, Georg; Atangana, Etienne Ndzie and Strech, Daniel (2015): Clinical Ethics in Gabon: The Spectrum of Clinical Ethical Issues Based on Findings from In-Depth Interviews at Three Public Hospitals.
In: PLOS ONE 10(7), e0132374 [PDF, 827kB]


Introduction Unlike issues in biomedical research ethics, ethical challenges arising in daily clinical care in Sub-Saharan African countries have not yet been studied in a systematic manner. However this has to be seen as a distinct entity as we argue in this paper. Our aim was to give an overview of the spectrum of clinical ethical issues and to understand what influences clinical ethics in the Sub-Saharan country of Gabon. Materials and Methods In-depth interviews with 18 health care professionals were conducted at three hospital sites in Gabon. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a grounded theory approach (open and axial coding),giving a qualitative spectrum of categories for clinical ethical issues. Validity was checked at a meeting with study participants and other health care experts in Gabon after analysis of the data. Results Twelve main categories (with 28 further-specified subcategories) for clinical ethical issues were identified and grouped under three core categories: A) micro level: "confidentiality and information","interpersonal, relational and behavioral issues","psychological strain of individuals",and "scarce resources";B) meso level: "structural issues of medical institutions","issues with private clinics","challenges connected to the family",and "issues of education, training and competence";and C) macro level: "influence of society, culture, religion and superstition","applicability of western medicine","structural issues on the political level",and "legal issues". Discussion Interviewees reported a broad spectrum of clinical ethical issues that go beyond challenges related to scarce financial and human resources. Specific socio-cultural, historical and educational backgrounds also played an important role. In fact these influences are central to an understanding of clinical ethics in the studied local context. Further research in the region is necessary to put our study into perspective. As many participants reported a lack of awareness of ethical issues amongst other health care professionals in daily clinical practice, we suggest that international organizations and national medical schools should consider infrastructure and tools to improve context-sensitive capacity building in clinical ethics for Sub-Saharan African countries like Gabon.

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