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Project Title:

Ethics Principles and Guidelines for Health and Safety Standards for Long Duration and Exploration Spaceflights
PIN: IOM-HSP-13-02        

Major Unit:

Institute of Medicine

Sub Unit: Board on Health Sciences Policy

RSO: Liverman, Cathy

Subject/Focus Area: Health and Medicine; Space and Aeronautics

Project Scope
NASA is in the process of planning for exploration class missions of long duration and beyond low Earth orbit (LEO).  An ad hoc committee of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) will conduct a study to examine policy and ethical issues relevant to crew health standards for these missions. The committee would consider the application of existing health standards and the potential development of a new set of standards for missions beyond LEO. These standards would address potential hazardous exposures and working conditions that are uncertain, unknown or that go beyond current NASA risk limits. NASA is looking in particular for a framework of ethical and policy principles that can help guide decision-making associated with implementing health standards for exploration class space missions when existing standards cannot be fully met, or the level of knowledge of a given condition is sufficiently limited that an adequate standard cannot be developed, for the mission. As part of its deliberations, the committee will consider and respond to options proposed by NASA, as well as offer options of its own. Given the long term importance of this task for NASA, the committee’s report will fully detail supporting rationale for all recommendations.  Questions to be considered include:

1.     What factors should be considered in the implementation of current health standards (which are defined in Volumes 1 and 2 of NASA Space Flight Human System Standards) in exploration class missions and the development of exploration class health standards if necessary?

a. What ethical considerations are involved in developing and implementing health and safety standards for manned space exploration when the exposures and risks are uncertain, unknown, and/or when exposures and risks might exceed current standards?

b. What standards of informed consent regarding the health risks of the mission are appropriate, and what are the ethical limits of informed consent processes in these circumstances? What principles should be applied (when relevant) to communicating the uncertainty regarding health risks?

c. What are appropriate modifiers for standards for protecting individuals when there is an incomplete understanding and knowledge of the potential risks or hazardous exposures, or when exposures and risks may exceed current standards?

d. Should all astronauts and spaceflight crew members be protected to the same risk level or should potential individual differences be considered? Would one standard be sufficient for the entire spaceflight crew or do known or unknown differences in risk need to be addressed to provide a uniform level of protection?

2.     Are there models or examples of other situations with unknown health risks (or risks that could exceed current standards) that could inform NASA policy and if so, how?

This study will not focus on spaceflight crew member participation as research subjects during spaceflight or the implementation aspects of health care for crew members.

The project is sponsored by NASA
The approximate start date for the project is April 1, 2013
A report will be issued at the end of the project in approximately 12 months

Project Duration: 12 months    

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Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 05/30/2013
 Meeting 2 - 07/18/2013
 Meeting 3 - 07/25/2013
 Meeting 4 - 09/17/2013
 Meeting 5 - 10/03/2013
 Meeting 6 - 11/18/2013
 Meeting 7 - 01/03/2014


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office