Site offers online ethics training

The National Cancer Institute has launched a "virtual learning" Web site to teach researchers how to protect patients from abuses during clinical trials.

NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health, developed the online course (at cme.nci.nih.gov) to teach research doctors, nurses and other health providers about the rights of patients.

More than 500 health providers have taken the hour-long online course since its launch Jan. 16, according to Charmaine Cummings, an educator who helped develop the program.

The Department of Health and Human Services ordered researchers to take the course in the wake of the death of 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger. He died two years ago after undergoing experimental gene therapy, and his death raised questions about whether researchers had violated strict guidelines in their work.

Cummings said the HHS order, which went into effect Oct. 1, 2000, covers all researchers who receive federal funding. Those who take the course receive a certificate and continuing education credits.

The free course is intended to help researchers understand "how to protect the rights and welfare of all human participants involved in research," according to the Web site.

The site was developed by Cine-Med Inc., which specializes in continuing medical education, and by faculty and bio-ethicists at NIH.

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