The Belmont Report and Innovative Practice

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 63 (2):313-326 (2020)
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One of the Belmont Report’s most important contributions was the clear and serviceable distinction it drew between standard medical practice and biomedical research. A less well-known achievement of the Report was its conceptualization of innovative practice, a type of medical practice that is often mistaken for research because it is new, untested, or experimental. Although the discussion of innovative practice in Belmont is brief and somewhat cryptic, this does not reflect the significant progress its authors made in understanding innovative practice and the distinctive ethical issues it raises. This article explores the history and broader context of Belmont’s conception of innovative practice, its strengths and weaknesses, and its contemporary relevance for scholars working in bioethics and health policy. While this conception of innovative practice deserves our attention, it is inherently limited in some important ways.

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Jake Earl
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research

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