The National Ethics Advisory Committee (NEAC) is a committee set up under New Zealand legislation to advise the Minister of Health on ethical issues in health services and research, and determine national ethical standards for the health sector.
NEAC has up to 12 members that are appointed by the Minister of Health. Members bring expertise in ethics, health and disability research, health service provision and leadership, public health, epidemiology, law, Māori health and consumer advocacy.
The Committee was set up in 2001. Its full name is the National Advisory Committee on Health and Disability Support Services Ethics, and it is also known by its Māori name; Kāhui Matatika o te Motu, which translates as ‘National Ethics Group’.
NEAC acts as an independent advisor to the Minister of Health. It has provided advice to the Minister on a range of issues, including on the system of ethical review of research and on the conduct of clinical trials in New Zealand, and ethical issues in elective health care services.
The Ministry of Health provides policy staff and other resources to support NEAC but the Committee remains independent of the Ministry and its work.
NEAC issues guidelines that set out the ethical standards that must be met by researchers when they undertake health and disability research. These guidelines are also used by ethics committees that review research study proposals – they are responsible for checking that each study meets the ethical standards set out in NEAC’s guidelines.
These ethics committees include those run by universities and the four statutory health and disability ethics committees that must follow the procedural rules(external link) (ethics.health.govt.nz) issued by the Ministry of Health. Unlike these ethics committees, NEAC does not have a role in considering or approving individual proposals for research.
NEAC issues advice on ethical issues in health care and disability services. For example, NEAC has published guidance on the ethical issues in pandemic planning and has developed advice for health professionals to help address the ethical challenges they face in advance care planning work.