I recently relayed some of the discussions at the ETICA conference (to which I referred to in my recent blog ) to a senior medical consultant. At the conference we had been given an example of where a "medical ethics" committee had delayed a research project by 18 month as it pondered whether a file of anonymised medical data could be used to test a ground-breaking "proof of concept" modelling exercise to improve mass diagnosis.
Over dinner he commented bitterly about ethics committees dominated by those who had never had to exercise clinical judgement. Then the phone rang and he left the table (stone sober because he had been on call) to face one such situation.
The best contribution to the ETICA conference came from Dr Alma Whitten (privacy engineering lead for Google). Do read her evidence to the US Senate on Consumer Online Privacy.