WELLCOME TRUST ANNOUNCES FIRST UNIVERSITY BIOMEDICAL ETHICS AWARD
18 September 2006
The UK's largest biomedical research charity, the Wellcome Trust, has just announced its first University Award in biomedical ethics, made to Dr Ilina Singh at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) for a lectureship in bioethics and society. The award will enable Dr Singh to continue groundbreaking research into attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and to explore ethical issues surrounding the impact of stimulant drugs.
ADHD is the fastest-growing child psychiatric disorder in the world; however, prevalence across different countries varies. US estimates of prevalence vary from 6 to 15 per cent of schoolchildren, compared with 1–3 per cent in the UK. Ritalin (methylphenidate) is the most common form of treatment for ADHD. The use of stimulant drugs to treat behaviour problems in young children has raised ethical concerns about a child's authenticity, a child's right to self-creation, and the rights of parents to shape the capacities of their children.
Although there has been much research and debate about the use of Ritalin-type drugs, there is very little research on the young person's viewpoint. How do children think about their 'authentic' selves in relation to stimulant drug treatment? What impact do they think ADHD diagnosis and drug treatment are having on them? Dr Singh’s five-year investigation will seek to answer these questions. Building on the results of a pilot study carried out in 2005, Dr Singh will conduct in-depth interviews with three groups of children: those who are taking stimulant drugs for a diagnosis of ADHD, those who are 'at-risk' for ADHD and unmedicated, and a group of children without mental health problems. Up to 100 children will be interviewed across two national settings, the UK and the USA.
Dr Singh explains: "The Wellcome Trust has generously awarded this grant to allow me to investigate the largely unheard voices of young people affected by ADHD and Ritalin-type drugs. I hope that the findings from this study will help us to further understand the ethical implications of behaviour-modifying drugs for children. I expect that the study will also help to inform clinical and parental practices around child behaviour management, diagnosis and treatment."
Clare Matterson, Director of Medicine, Society and History at the Wellcome Trust comments: "This is the first time the Wellcome Trust has made a University Award in biomedical ethics, and it reflects our commitment to build capacity by supporting the careers of first-class academics in this area. We are delighted to continue to support the work of Dr Singh, provoking further investigation, discussion and debate in this field."
Speaking about the award, Professor Nikolas Rose, Director of the BIOS Research Centre for the Study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society at LSE, commented: "This is excellent news, not only because of the quality of recipient and the importance of her research, but also because it marks a significant development in the invaluable support that the Wellcome Trust has given to our research on the social and ethical implications of developments in biomedicine. The LSE looks forward to the growth of this fruitful relationship between our two institutions."
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The Wellcome Trust is the most diverse biomedical research charity in the world, spending about £450 million every year both in the UK and internationally to support and promote research that will improve the health of humans and animals. The Trust was established under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome, and is funded from a private endowment, which is managed with long-term stability and growth in mind. www.wellcome.ac.uk
LSE is one of the world's leading social science universities. The School has around 8000 students, undergraduate and postgraduate, from more than 110 countries around the world. In the most recent national research assessment in the UK (2001), LSE came second after Cambridge for the quality of its research.
In the Times Higher Education Supplement's 2004 world ratings, LSE was top of the UK institutions and ranked second in the world for social sciences, behind Harvard. www.lse.ac.uk
BIOS is a multidisciplinary centre at the LSE for research into contemporary developments in the life sciences, biomedicine and biotechnology. It is a joint initiative between the Department of Sociology and the Institute of Social Psychology, with the support of the Departments of Government and Law and the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Sciences.
BIOS supports postdoctoral researchers, visiting fellows and professors, and postgraduate students. It has an infrastructure that encourages and hosts research supported by funding bodies such as the Economic and Social Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and other major funding bodies.