BMJ Open Heart

Ethical issues in two parallel trials of personalised criteria for implantation of implantable cardioverter defibrillators for primary prevention: the PROFID project

Published  14 July 2021, BMJ Open Heart

Authors  Dick Willems, Marieke Bak, Hanno Tan, Georg Lindinger, Ayca Kocar, Alireza Seperhi Shamloo, Georg Schmidt, Gerhard Hindricks, Nikolaos Dagres


Aim  To discuss ethical issues related to a complex study (PROFID) involving the development of a new, partly artificial intelligence-based, prediction model to enable personalised decision-making about the implantation of an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) in postmyocardial infarction patients, and a parallel noninferiority and superiority trial to test decision-making informed by that model.

Method  The position expressed in this paper is based on an analysis of the PROFID trials using concepts from highprofile publications in the ethical literature.

Results  We identify ethical issues related to the testing of the model in the treatment setting, and to both the superiority and the non-inferiority trial. We underline the need for ethical-empirical studies about these issues, also among patients, as a parallel to the actual trials. The number of ethics committees involved is an organisational, but also an ethical challenge.

Conclusion  The PROFID trials, and probably other studies of similar scale and complexity, raise questions that deserve dedicated parallel ethics and social science research, but do not constitute a generic obstacle. A harmonisation procedure, comparable to the Voluntary Harmonization Procedure (VHP) for medication trials, could be needed for this type of trials.

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