Moral Agency, Moral Worth and the Question of Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing Countries
Tangwa, Godfrey B.
Developing World Bioethics 2001 November; 1(2): 156-162
International regulations governing medical research, healthcare and medical practice, are, obviously, meant to be guidelines and not detailed procedural rules of thumb that can be applied unreflectively without any danger of doing moral wrong. Moreover, such regulations are meant to apply internationally, and no set of straight-jacketed rules of thumb can conceivably apply to all societies and communities of the world, extremely diverse and differently situated as they are. The mark of a good international guideline or regulation, in my view, is that it should provide a clear principle of action that applies equally to all global communities and societies without seeking to foist the particular or momentary moral dilemmas, quandaries, obsessions and preoccupations of some on all. In this paper, I propose to argue that, because moral obligations are obligations only from the point of view of a particular moral agent, we should avoid making the peculiar problems of any particular moral agent(s) the obsessive concern of all moral agents, and that we need, in particular, to make appropriate distinctions between the ethics of developed world research in the developing world, collaborative or cooperative research between the developed and developing worlds, developed world research in the developed world and developing world research in the developed world. A consequence of looking at things this way is that, while it should be clear that there are ethical concerns, imperatives and obligations at all levels, different standards may and, in fact, cannot but be applied in different contexts at different levels, without resorting to the use of double standards, which can never be morally justified. Finally, I venture to propose a formula for a solemn pledge of moral integrity and noble intent, from the perspective of the agent, that is to say, the investigator, sponsor and funder of any research, to complement and balance the widely accepted informed consent requirement, from the perspective of the patient, the subject of any biomedical research.
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International Regulations and Medical Research in Developing Countries: Double Standards or Differing Standards? Tangwa, Godfrey B. (2002)
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