Social value, clinical equipoise, and research in a public health emergency

Bioethics 33 (3):326-334 (2018)
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The 2016 CIOMS International ethical guidelines for health‐related research involving humans states that ‘health‐related research should form an integral part of disaster response’ and that, ‘widespread emergency use [of unproven interventions] with inadequate data collection about patient outcomes must therefore be avoided’ (Guideline 20). This position is defended against two lines of criticism that emerged during the 2014 Ebola outbreak. One holds that desperately ill patients have a moral right to try unvalidated medical interventions (UMIs) and that it is therefore unethical to restrict access to UMIs to the clinical trial context. The second holds that clinical trials in contexts of high‐mortality diseases are morally suspect because equipoise does not exist between a standard of care that offers little prospect of clinical benefit and a UMI that might offer some clinical advantage.



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Alex John London
Carnegie Mellon University

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