“Paid to Endure”: Paid Research Participation, Passivity, and the Goods of Work

American Journal of Bioethics 19 (9):11-20 (2019)


A growing literature documents the existence of individuals who make a living by participating in phase I clinical trials for money. Several scholars have noted that the concerns about risks, consent, and exploitation raised by this phenomenon apply to many jobs, too, and therefore proposed improving subject protections by regulating phase I trial participation as work. This article contributes to the debate over this proposal by exploring a largely neglected worry. Unlike most workers, subjects are not paid to produce or achieve anything but to have things done to them. I argue that this passivity is problematic for reasons of distributive justice. Specifically, it fails to enable subjects to realize what Gheaus and Herzog call “the goods of work”—a failure not offset by adequate opportunities to realize these goods outside of the research context. I also consider whether granting subjects worker-type protections would accommodate this concern.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,856

External links

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

Through your library


Added to PP

13 (#776,575)

6 months
1 (#386,040)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Erik Malmqvist
University of Gothenburg

Citations of this work

Research Payment and Its Social Justice Concerns.Jill A. Fisher - 2019 - American Journal of Bioethics 19 (9):35-36.
The Continued Complexities of Paying Research Participants.Christine Grady - 2019 - American Journal of Bioethics 19 (9):5-7.
Philosophical Approaches to Work and Labor.Michael Cholbi - 2022 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

View all 20 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Goods of Work (Other Than Money!).Anca Gheaus & Lisa Herzog - 2016 - Journal of Social Philosophy 47 (1):70-89.
The Research Subject as Wage Earner.James A. Anderson & Charles Weijer - 2002 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 23 (4-5):359-376.
Pharmacogenetics: The Bioethical Problem of DNA Investment Banking.Oonagh P. Corrigan & Bryn Williams-Jones - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 37 (3):550-565.
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.
Exploitation in International Paid Surrogacy Arrangements.Stephen Wilkinson - 2016 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (2):125-145.