via The Chronicle of Higher Education Brainstorm by Bill Gleason October 14, 2011:
Do People Have a Moral Obligation to Participate in Research?
a few excerpts:
"As my colleague, bioethicist Carl Elliot, put it: “Only 16% of academic health centers in this country will pay the medical bills for research subjects who are injured in clinical trials. None will pay for lost wages and suffering. And an ethicist is arguing that we all have a duty to sign up for these trials? Give me a break.”
"But Carl was not able to attend this conference and I knew that Mary Weiss, the mother of Dan Markingson, would be there. Her son died in connection with a clinical trial at the University of Minnesota that has become notorious. I wanted to offer moral support. I met her – for the first time – before the start of the conference. She seemed in control, and we had a pleasant conversation, but I was concerned. After the first talk, on the pro side, she had to leave. I could understand why.
"Most patients are not capable of making scientific judgments about whether a clinical trial is worthwhile. Many doctors and people who sit on institutional review boards (IRBs) are not. To claim that people should risk themselves, out of beneficence, to participate in a clinical trial is unreasonable. Certainly to declare it to be a moral obligation is wrong. (emphasis mine)
"I did find a wonderful talk by Professor Susan Wolf of the University of North Carolina, who gave the Frumke lecture at NYU entitled: “Moral Obligations and Social Commands.” This talk examines the concept of what a moral obligation is and gives examples. To claim that participation in research is a moral obligation does not seem to pass the Wolf Test. This outstanding lecture is available in hard copy here and even, mirabile dictu, on YouTube.
" It was an exhausting day. Certainly caused a Brainstorm. I drove one of the speakers to the airport and came home. Took three beers to return to earth."
Welcome back Gleason. I truly appreciate your having made 'the trip', and for writing about it. Thanks for the lecture recommendation. Shall we ever meet, I'll buy you a beer--