Physician Duties in the Conduct of Human Subject Research
Accountability in Research 2001; 8(4): 349-375
In this article, I examine a skeptical argument against the possibility of ethically justifying risky human subject research (rHSR). That argument asserts that such research is unethical because it holds the possibility of wronging subjects who are harmed and whose consent to participate was less than fully voluntary. I conclude that the skeptical argument is not in the end sufficient to undermine the ethical foundation of rHSR because it fails to take account of the special positive duty researchers owe their clients and future patients. Although the skeptical argument is defeated, it exacts certain novel concessions from the pro-research position. Of particular importance are the admissions (a) that researchers presumptively owe a fiduciary duty to research subjects, (b) that because the most important risks of rHSR are unknown and unquantifiable that duty must be explicitly waived by all subjects before they participate in any protocol, and (c) that such waivers must be made by individuals who satisfy objective criteria of competence for giving fully voluntary consent. The implementation of procedures responsive to these concerns might have a dampening effect on the conduct of research. However, the article concludes with a consideration of the likely benefits to researchers and society of a more cautious ethical regime.
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Ethical Principles for the Conduct of Human Subject Research: Population-Based Research and Ethics Gostin, Larry (1991)This paper provides a halting first step in organizing a set of ethical guidelines for the conduct of population-based research, surveillance and practice. These principles are not distinct from, but an expansion of, traditional ...