Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Rethinking the Ethics of Research

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

Rethinking the Ethics of Research

Article excerpt

Karen Maschke, associate for ethics and science policy at the Hastings Center, observes on the opposite page that all of the feature articles in this issue of the Report contemplate major changes to the ethical standards that govern research conducted on human subjects. The first two articles, by David Orentlicher and Lynn Jansen, ask whether informed consent, at least as it has been understood, is always necessary, and the third, by David Wendler, proposes that the way risks have been understood for certain kinds of research is inadequate. In asking whether informed consent is always necessary, the first two articles are in effect asking whether "coercive" methods of recruiting new subjects should sometimes be tolerated, or at least whether "coercion" is sometimes understood too broadly. This question recurs in an essay by Jennifer Hawkins and Ezekiel Emanuel, who argue that people who think about human subjects research often see coercion where none exists.

Two of the departments also take up questions about research. Jeremy Sugarman, in Policy & Politics, examines the developing debate over whether American researchers who run trials in foreign countries should adhere to the host country's requirements rather than to U.S. requirements, and a set of commentators from Vanderbilt University and the Department of Defense's Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences argue in Perspective that scientific researchers generally need more training, and ongoing training, in the responsible conduct of research.

These contributions to the Report reflect a recent trend in bioethics to reconsider some of the basic elements of the ethics of research on human subjects. …

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