Scientific research is a moral duty

Journal of Medical Ethics 31 (4):242-248 (2005)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Biomedical research is so important that there is a positive moral obligation to pursue it and to participate in itScience is under attack. In Europe, America, and Australasia in particular, scientists are objects of suspicion and are on the defensive.i“Frankenstein science”5–8 is a phrase never far from the lips of those who take exception to some aspect of science or indeed some supposed abuse by scientists. We should not, however, forget the powerful obligation there is to undertake, support, and participate in scientific research, particularly biomedical research, and the powerful moral imperative that underpins these obligations. Now it is more imperative than ever to articulate and explain these obligations and to do so is the subject and the object of this paper.Let me present the question in its starkest form: is there a moral obligation to undertake, support and even to participate in serious scientific research? If there is, does that obligation require not only that beneficial research be undertaken but also that “we”, as individuals and “we” as societies be willing to support and even participate in research where necessary?Thus far the overwhelming answer given to this question has been “no”, and research has almost universally been treated with suspicion and even hostility by the vast majority of all those concerned with the ethics and regulation of research. The so called “precautionary approach”9 sums up this attitude, requiring dangers to be considered more likely and more serious than benefits, and assuming that no sane person would or should participate in research unless they had a pressing personal reason for so doing, or unless they were motivated by a totally impersonal altruism. International agreements and protocols—for example, the Declaration of Helsinki10 and the CIOMS Guidelines11—have been directed principally at …



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 94,678

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

The Obligation to Participate in Biomedical Research.G. Owen Schaefer, Ezekiel J. Emanuel & Alan Wertheimer - 2009 - Journal of the American Medical Association 302 (1):67-72.
A duty to participate in research: Does social context matter?Inmaculada de Melo-Mart - 2008 - American Journal of Bioethics 8 (10):28 – 36.
The case for a duty to research: not yet proven.Iain Brassington - 2014 - Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (5):329-330.
When is normative recruitment legitimate?Lars Øystein Ursin & Berge Solberg - 2008 - Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics 2 (2):93-113.


Added to PP

109 (#162,108)

6 months
21 (#165,152)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Joshua Harris
University College London

References found in this work

Justice as impartiality.Brian Barry - 1995 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Taking Rights Seriously.Alan R. White - 1977 - Philosophical Quarterly 27 (109):379-380.
The concept of the person and the value of life.John Harris - 1999 - Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 9 (4):293-308.
Taking rights seriously.P. Barsa - 1996 - Filosoficky Casopis 44 (2):291-305.

View all 7 references / Add more references