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Do we need bioethics?

25 Sep

Do we need bioethics Do we need bioethics

Two counterarguments: Need and Employability

It may be surprisingly annoying to keep defining and defending your speciality every time you are asked about it. To many, including some medical colleagues, I have wasted my time and two dream opportunities: a master at the University of Toronto and a PhD at the University of Birmingham. Instead of \’being a doctor\’, they tell me in full empathy, I chose a \’theoretical discipline\’.

Although I had my masters in bioethics at the University of Toronto Joint Center for Bioethics more than a decade ago, my listeners got confused when they ask me about my speciality and I quietly utter the word, \”bioethics\”. They respond, \”good, biostatistics is not bad at all\”. I try to correct them that bioethics has nothing to do with biostatistics. Some keep this sympathetic look of \’oh dear, what a waste of time?!\’. They believe, consciously or unconsciously, that I should have failed to be a clinician to go to this unknown field. Others openly argue, \”why would you specialize in such unneeded, unemployable discipline\”. 

This blog is for the latter.

First, Let me start by stating that I will not argue who a doctor is and what his roles are. Perhaps a look at the CanMEDS Framework can save me a lot of time of who is a doctor. Then, here we go.

Let me start by stating by two of my favourite quotes from two colleagues, Dr Wifaq of Sudan and Dr Adlan of Saudi Arabia, which are “people do not miss what they do not know” and “people do not know what they do not know”, respectively. 

One major gap in the development of bioethics in the region is that many people at various levels don’t miss bioethics because they don’t know what it is and how it can help them. This is true both at the clinical bedside decisions related to end-of-life care, informed consent, organ donation, their patients’ rights, telling their patients about their diagnoses, and the list goes on. Public health practitioners and the policy-makers who need to make ethical decisions related to who gets the vaccine first, how to allocate the resources during pandemics, and what are the limits we can impose on the people’s inherent rights to free movement and travel. 

All clinicians and public health practitioners face dilemmas they do not have an answer to, and they don’t know where to find it. Some refer to their faith and decide that a fatwa will resolve the issue, but even the mufti refers to other experts to be able to issue a fatwa. Moreover, this technically means we need a mufti for every hospital because the cases may seem similar but not identical. 

Some prefer to play it safe and follow the rules, policies and guidelines. Unfortunately, these documents are mostly written by and for clinicians for clinical purposes. They seldom provide meaningful ethical guidance. Others prefer to take it on their own and decide by ‘what pleases their conscious’. This is even trickier as it varies widely, depending on what you think the right thing is.

Bioethics is a systematic study of these issues in all the disciplines and fields of healthcare that aims at helping the decision-makers through theoretically-justifiable decisions that can be applied through practical frameworks and tools. Many people do not know that. Hence, they will not miss it. Back to the quotes, I started with.

In that sense, the need argument is void because of the perception of the need to absent. 

The picture is not that dark after all.

To be fair, there is a growing awareness of the field. This is very true during the pandemic. For example, the UNESCO has asked some experts in bioethics to record some video messages for the public about the ethical issues related to COVID-19. Also, the Saudi National Bioethics Committee and the Saudi Health Council have formed expert panels to develop ethical guidelines for the conduct of research and the allocation of scarce resources during the pandemic, respectively.

These initiatives give a tint of hope that the need is growing and the field is progressing, and perhaps more people are becoming interested in it. However, there is a need to move from the era of \’bioethics by interest\’, to bioethics as a discipline. Many people, back to the quotes, think they know bioethics because they have read a few books, and subscribed to a few bioethics journals. They were, then, invited as speakers or teachers of bioethics for undergraduate students and the public. Sorry, this does not make them experts. They just do not know that they do not know. 

As an academic discipline, bioethics should be treated as one. There is no physician, or lawyer, or social worker by interest. Yes, there is no certification for bioethics, yet. But this does not mean anyone should call himself a bioethicist, at least as long as there are postgraduate academic programs that people spend years studying. I need not disclose how biased this sentence is, given that I have spent many years in formal education of the field.

To make it more neutral, hopefully, I have developed a Development Needs\’ Assessment (DNA) for selected bioethics topics. Please fill it in and share it with those who may be interested. It mainly targets those in the kingdom but those outside it are welcome to participate.

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Public Health Surveillance – Complete lecture

15 Sep

Public Health Surveillance Whole Lecture

 This is the complete lecture on Public Health Surveillance that I gave to medical students as a part of the Community Medicine course. I

n the lecture, we learned about:

1- What is public health?

2- What is the epidemiological investigation?

3- Why do we need epidemiological investigation?

4- Who does the epidemiological investigation?

5- What are its uses, with examples of epidemic diseases and natural disasters.

This lecture was prepared by Dr. Iman Abdel Halim, PhD in Pathology,

Introduction to Public Health Ethics | The complete lecture

27 Aug

Introduction to Public Health Ethics | The complete lecture Introduction to Public Health Ethics | The complete lecture

Introduction to Public Health Ethics

This lecture was delivered to the medical students in their Community Medicine Course, we have outlined and discussed the following points:


1- What is ethically unique about public health? 2- What is Public health Ethics? And do we need it? 3- What makes public health ethically problematic? 4- How to make our public health programs ethical? 5- The ethical principles for public health


Dr Ghaiath Hussein has been assigned as the Assistant Professor of bioethics at KSAU-HS

21 Aug

 Dr Ghaiath Hussein has been assigned as an assistant professor in bioethics at the College of Public Health and Health Informatics at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences at the National Guard in Riyadh. 

He is the first academician to obtain a job title in bioethics at the university, which is a sign of the university\’s commitment to bioethics. Also, he will be one of the faculty members for the MA program College Public Health.

It is expected that the Master of Bioethics (MBE) program will be reactivated at the university during the coming period, in addition to some accompanying training programs in the field of ethics such as:

  • Health research ethics
  • Clinical practice ethics
  • Public Health Ethics
  • Health Informatics Ethics
  • The Ethics of Artificial Intelligence and \’Big Data\’

They will be announced at the time, God willing.

My response to "Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science"

19 Aug

Subject: RE: Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science


Dear Dr Ben Ammar,


Thanks for sharing this controversial and perhaps confusing article. It starts with stating the greatness of the Muslims\’ contribution to science at a certain age, which the writer described as the ‘golden age’ though made every possible effort to relate that greatness to external factors. He has also tried hard to validate his points by first praising Muslims then turning quite hardly and inconsistently, at times, to make the problem lies within Islam itself and not any of the socio-political factors that he mentioned.

I cannot respond to every single point he made (especially the areas that are beyond my expertise and knowledge) but there are few general comments that I can share. First, using the term ‘Islam’ is misleading and misguided in many ways. Which version of ‘Islam’ the author was referring to? He, himself, acknowledged that there are eras, sects and ideologies. Any of them can described as ‘Islam’, if you want to whether praise or condemn the faith.

Second, there was a huge gap in knowledge about the fundamentals of Islam as explained by the main and the secondary sources of Shariya. Even more, he has failed to mention, let alone explain, that Sharia has the four integrated and inter-dependent components of: manners/ethics/morality, legislation, rituals, and transactions. He failed to elaborate how the Muslim scholars have conducted extensive mental and moral reasoning and extraction of the main Islamic jurisprudence from the main sources and not (as the author tried to impose) that there was no criticism or critical thinking whatsoever.


That said, I do agree that we need more critical thinking and self-reflection among ourselves as Muslim academics. We should do this as a continuation of the previous efforts and not to detach ourselves from our past. The tricky part, though, and in which I agree with the author is to move forward from being merely defensive of a religion and history that we do no know well only because we are failing en mass to make our present worth our pride.

We have all seen great Muslim scientists and scholars who are contributing to the body of knowledge in almost every discipline, including astronomy and you may refer to NASA’s website for its Muslim staff scientists. They are there wherever you go in every university from Harvard to oxford to the Sorbonne to any other prestigious institution. We all know that being a Nobel laureate is only one indicator of such contribution but another internally renowned prizes like King Faisal’s use the same standards of Nobel and many of its rules nad judges to give their prizes. Even those who never got a prize at all should be deemed as useless or non-contributors.

All of them are Muslims and many of them are practicing Muslims. They did not have to leave Islam to invent and have patents.

This brings me to the importance of the socio-political factors that the author has tried to dash in a couple of sentences as irrelevant. They are indeed. No freedom, no development. Period. Under this level of totalitarian and corrupt ruling regimes in the four corners of the Muslim world, it is impossible to imagine a real or meaningful development, research and academic contribution.

In summary, I think the author raises very genuine points that are worth discussing and not simply put aside in the usual defensive approach.


Best regards,

Ghaiath M. A. Hussein, PhD

What can public health practice ethically problematic?

12 Aug

 In this part of the lecture, we discuss:

  1. What is Public Health Ethics?
  2. What can make public health ethically problematic?
  3. The concept of the \’Nanny State\’
  4. What are the limits and limitations of the State\’s interference in people\’s lives and health?
  5. How to respond to those argue that \’I am free to eat what I want. It\’s my body, not yours\’

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How a discontinued treatment led a patient to be sent to jail?

6 Aug

A patient discontinued his treatment. The PHO locked him in the prison\’s hospital? 


In this part of the lecture, I discuss a real case that happened in a rural area where a TB patient discontinued his treatment and ended up sent to jail. Watch to see how this all happened and then discuss the following ethical issues:
  1. Is the patient\’s right to refuse treatment absolute? If not, when and where to draw the line to the point of forcing them to be treated/isolated?
  2. What are the limits of the public health authorities and the State in general when it comes to people\’s choices?
  3. What are the ethical principles that should guide our interventions as public health physicians in managing patients with infectious diseases?

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How best to prepare for a PhD program in Gender and Humanitarian Action

4 Aug
The following is an exchange that was published on Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP), which I thought to be of interest to a wider audience.

How best to prepare for a PhD program in Gender and Humanitarian Action

Posted 4 days ago
Edited by Shiela Marcos 4 days ago
ReplyOptions Dropdown
I am looking to enroll in a PhD program focusing on Gender and Humanitarian action. I am a practitioner and I wish to maintain a link with the academic world and sort of feed back my field knowledge into humanitarian learning platforms and also use the analysis and academic knowledge in my field practice. Are there any members in the community who can provide advice on this?
I wish to discuss and get some tips and support on the specific steps that I should be taking next – for example, to start actively sharing knowledge, drafting articles, etc., as preparation prior to enrolling in a PhD program. Any inputs would be greatly appreciated.
Amel Hermi
GBV Manager
Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
Malakal, South Sudan

RE: How best to prepare for PhD program in Gender and Humanitarian Action

Ghaiath Hussein
Posted 18 minutes ago
Edited by Shiela Marcos 18 minutes ago
Dear Amel,
Thanks for posing the question. I hope my contribution can be of help to you and others who wish to shift from (or simply integrate) the humanitarian field to/with the academia.
As a necessary relevant introduction, I have worked for the Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan (your neighbour) for a few years and for the WHO office in one of Darfur states for a few months. I had the chance to work in the main three at the time Darfur States. The most relevant is that when I was assigned as the State Survey Manager for the Sudan Household Survey (you can find the technical report here), where I have witnessed firsthand the suffering of the IDPs along with the difficulties of conducting humanitarian studies in such contexts. In particular, there is a personal story that ignited the many ethical questions in my mind and this was one of my data collection teams (6 young men and women, ages between 20 and 24) got trapped in a \’randomly-selected\’ village that was safe at the time of selection was suddenly attacked by a militia. To cut a long story short, with some negotiations and some luck they managed to come back safe (at least physically) with the filled questionnaires, which, by the way, had very specific and identifiable data for the individuals in more than 100 households. This experience raised dozens on methodological and ethical questions that had to be systematically studied. More importantly, it made me make a pledge to come back as an insider, not a parachuting outsider who collects the data and never seen again (ringing any bells?)
Now let\’s come to the shift with focus on your questions and inquiries. Well, first of all to move from the field you need the following:
  1. The passion for what you want to study. NEVER take a PhD because there is a grant for it or because it is available. Doctoral studies is a relay-race not a marathon. The trick is that you relay to yourself. In my case, my passion was to people who live there, to the people who work there (mostly the humanitarian agencies), and to the affected community as whole. I could not even imagine my team kidnapped, its women members rapped, or any of them killed. Moreover, what if the filled questionnaires ended up in the wrong hands and provided a \’kill-list\’ with all the names, ages and locations.
  2. Specify your area of knowledge and expertise to decide what you want to study. PhDs, though may end up in up to 80,000 words, boils down to one specific topic with a set of specific research questions. The humanitarian field is full of intermingling, interacting, and overlapping fields of knowledge. I chose ethics. You may choose your area of adequate knowledge, expertise and passion.
  3. Choose your prospect supervisor wisely. S/he may not have the same passion or set of experience but s/he should be familiar with the topic you want to study AND s/he has a good history of winning grants. To me, it was not a huge task. The field of public health/humanitarian ethics is limited. So were my choices. I found a great supervisor who was an expert in ethics (a philosopher) who has extensive experience in public health (consultant for WHO  and MSF) with extensive publications in the field. He had a team of people who know how to fill the grants\’ forms (the nasty budget parts that I suck at). The co-supervisor was more towards the normative and the methodological parts. One way to catch your supervisor\’s attention is a list of relevant publications or at least publishable reports of your fieldwork. I know that we (the humanitarians;) don\’t do that a lot. We write as a part of the business as usual because we have supervisors to please and donors to show them we invested their money well. No wonder I found that as little as 13.2% reported gaining ethical approval and less than half of them mentioned that informed consent was obtained from the participants. Academia is almost all about writing. REAL WRITING. You have to convince your prospect supervisors that you can tolerate the academia and do the job till the end.
  4. Apply to the relevant grant. There are many grants\’ providers out there. Your prospect supervisor is the best one to choose from. My supervisor recommended Wellcome Trust. It is quite competitive but with the right topic, the right writing (grant/form filling), and the right approach, we managed to get it.
  5. Be ready for the VERY LONG & CHALLENGING JOURNEY. Unlike the very practical, abstract, and short-term nature of our work in the humanitarian field, the doctoral journey is long, wavy and at times stressing and boring. You will have to search a lot, write a lot, argue a lot, defend a lot, surrender a lot, and throw thousands of words worth tens of working hours in the trash. The hardest part is to negotiate your relation with your supervisors.
  6. Make your timeline. Don\’t expect your supervisors to make it for you. Let me say it bluntly, this is your life and your time, not theirs. For them, a failing PhD student is a missing number. For you, it is a lost life – not just a lost opportunity. They may not be aware, for example, with how much budget you (still) have, how much time left in your visa, and what is going through. They want the product when you prepare it. In short, you have to push for a very specific timeline that is reasonable and acceptable to your supervisors. Once you all agree on it, stick to it. It might not be easy if your supervisor travels 9 months/year but you should always be able to manage and stay on track.
I hope these initial thoughts are helpful. Please let me know if you want me to elaborate more on any of these or other points.
Thanks again for asking about that.
Best regards,
Ghaiath M. A. Hussein, PhD

Lectures\' Video Library

1 Aug

Lectures\’ Video Library Lectures\’ Video Library



The following are automatically-updated playlists from my YouTube Channel. Please note that you have to click the CC in the video to see the subtitles.
القوائم التالية هي قوائم مقاطع فيديو ذاتية التحديث من قناتي على اليوتيوب، يمكنك المشاهدة دون الحاجة للاشتراك في القناة 

Bioethics-related videos

هذه محاضرات تتعلق بأخلاقيات المهن الصحية والتي ألقيتها على طلاب الطب أو المتدربين أو الممارسين الصحيين أو طلاب ماجستير الأخلاقيات، وكذلك محاضراتي التي سجلتها لهيئة التخصصات الصحية السعودية، وتشمل قائمة الموضوعات حتى الآن:
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SCHS Introduction to Medical Ethics


SCHS Series 5: Medical Errors الخطأ الطبي


SCHS Series 3: Professionalism (1)


SCHS Series (7): Informed Consent to Treatment (1)


SCHS Series (6):Privacy & Confidentiality


SCHS Series(4): Patients\’ Rights


SCHS Introduction to Medical ethics (Philosophies)


SCHS Research Methodology Course by Dr. Hani Tamimi (Part1)


SCHS Series (7): Informed Consent to Treatment (2)


SCHS Series 3: Professionalism (2)


SCHS Series (6): Confidentiality Measures


SCHS Ethics Course is now Online, Interactive, Accredited, & FREE


طرق تدريس الاخلاقيات: استعمال السرد القصصي (معدل)


UNESCO\’s COVID-19 message رسالة ضمن خبراء اليونسكو


Public Health Ethics (1) | مقدمة إلى أخلاقيات الصحة العامة وطب المجتمع


٢/ أخلاقيات العمل في الطوارئ والعناية المركزة@ الدكتور عبدالله الجودي


Webinar Announcement Saudi Society for Healthcare Ethics| إعلان ويبينار


تعريف وتقسيم الأخلاقيات والمهنية الطبية (جامعة طيبة ٢٠١٢م)


Public Health Ethics (2): Send this patient to Jail | عندما قرر الطبيب حبس المريض


Public Health Ethics (3): Why makes PH ethically problematic? | القضايا الأخلاقية في طب المجتمع



Public Health Ethics (4) Guiding principles for public health | الموجهات الأخلاقية لطب المجتمع

Research-related videos





البحث العلمي على الانترنت والاقتباس باستعمال برنامج Reference Manager


لماذا تحتاج أن تنشر بحثك العلمي؟


كلمة سريعة عن جزء المنهحية في المقال


Writing an effective abstract


Your Publication … Your Legacy. An inspirational introduction by Dr. Abdullah Adlan


كيف تُصمِّم استباناتك البحثية (Questionnaires) باستعمالGoogle Forms؟ الجزء 3


كيف تُصمِّم استباناتك البحثية (Questionnaires) باستعمالGoogle Forms؟ الجزء الأول


أخلاقيات البحوث الصحية Research Ethics


Research Methodology Course by Dr. Hani Tamimi (Part2)


دليلك برنامج مندلي | مين الأخ مندلي؟


دليلك برنامج مندلي | كيف تحول المراجع المكتوبة يدوياً الى مراجع موجودة في مندلي


استعمل برنامج Mendely من برنامج MS Word لتنظيم مراجعك


كيف تبحث عن المراجع باستعمال برنامج Medenely


How to conduct Focus Groups (FGDs)? – كيف تدير حلقات النقاش للبحوث النوعية – شرح عربي


Literature Review: مراجعة الأدبيات


PICO البحث باستعمال اختصار


Literature review-2(لماذا نحتاج مراجعة الأدبيات؟)


Literature review تعريف مراجعة الأدبيات


qualitative research البحوث النوعية كامل المحاضرة


مثال على تطبيق البحوث الكيفية qualitative research نتائج من رسالة الدكتوراة


شرح باللغة العربيةL25 Randomized Clinical/Controlled Trials-ARABIC VIDEO


FIND THE GAP متى ممكن أعيد عمل بحث؟


From Google Scholar to Mendeley (In ONE Click) | من (Google Scholar) إلى مندلي بنقرة واحدة


Good Literature Review: كيف تقوم بمراجعة أدبيات جيدة


Knowledge Management Cycle


Literature review-Why do we need it? لماذا نحتاج مراجعة الأدبيات


Research Interviews VS Focus Groups (Arabic) أيهما أنسب؟ المقابلات الشخصية أم مجموعات النقاش؟


SCHS Research Methodology Course by Dr. Hani Tamimi (Part1)


Tips to an Effective Article\’s Introduction


TRAILER: How to Publish Your Research?


What\’s wrong with lengthy FGDs? ما المشكلة في حلقات نقاش طويلة في البحوث الكيفية؟


Writing Methods Section – By Dr Abdullah Adlan


Writing Research SMART Objectives كيف نكتب أهداف البحوث الصحية؟ً


برنامج Mendeley للباحثين: رتب مراجعك


خصائص برنامج Menedely على الموقع وكيف تستعملها


دليلك برنامج مندلي | والحركة الخنفشارية والنهاية السعيدة!


الفروق بين الدراسات الكمية والكيفية Differences between quantitative and qualitative research


كيف تُصمِّم استباناتك البحثية (Questionnaires) باستعمالGoogle Forms؟ الجزء 2


كيف تُصمِّم استباناتك البحثية (Questionnaires) باستعمالGoogle Forms؟ FULL EPISODE


كيف تكتب مقالك العلمي؟ كتابة المقدمة Introduction


كيف تكتب مقالك العلمي؟ كتابة مناقشة النتائج Discussion



مثال عن أهمية البحوث الكيفية (النوعية)

Epidemiology, public health and community medicine videos

Lectures I gave on topics related to epidemiology and public health for undergraduate and postgraduate students. Most of them are in Arabic but subtitled in English so make sure you click the CC in the settings of the video.



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Introduction to Public health ethics- Recorded Lecture

28 Jul
Introduction to public health ethics

Starting today I will launch a series of short videos on #public_health_ethics, we compare clinical practice and public health in order to understand the differences in the ethical issues between the two fields.
The rest of the lecture will be launched on my YouTube channel every week for 4 weeks.

The lecture is in Arabic. Please remember to turn on the CC to find the English subtitles.