Journal Article

Are ethics promulgations self-defeating?

Derrick Gray

in Journal of Law and the Biosciences

Published on behalf of Harvard University Law School

Volume 2, issue 2, pages 421-427
Published in print July 2015 |
Published online July 2015 | e-ISSN: 2053-9711 | DOI:

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Alan Wertheimer argues that promulgating some ethical standards of international clinical research may be self-defeating: the intended purpose of these standards is to promote the interests of subjects and communities in LMICs, while the outcome of promulgation could be to undermine these very same interests. If enforced, such standards would increase the costs of performing beneficial research in LMICs, potentially diverting opportunities to participate in this research away from those who have no other access to the care participation allows. I argue that these standards are really intended as deontological constraints protecting subjects from being exploited by research sponsors. First, I show that Wertheimer begs the question against this deontological interpretation of ethics promulgations, rejecting it on non-deontological grounds. I go on to show that non-exploitation is an important goal on its own, sometimes independent from—and sometimes even outweighing—the goal of promoting the interests of subjects and communities in LMICs. I conclude by suggesting that those who criticize the promulgation of non-exploitation on the grounds that exploitative practices help those badly off might do best to reconsider the background assumption that sponsors in wealthier countries have no pre-existing obligation to promote the interests of the world's poor.

Keywords: exploitation; research ethics

Journal Article.  3085 words. 

Subjects: Medical and Healthcare Law ; Bioethics

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