Roche’s Clinical Trials with Organs from Prisoners: Does Profit Trump Morals?

Journal of Business Ethics 121 (2):315-328 (2014)
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Abstract

This case study discusses the economic, legal, and ethical considerations for conducting clinical trials in a controversial context. In 2010, pharmaceutical giant Roche received a shame award by the Swiss non-governmental organization Berne Declaration and Greenpeace for conducting clinical trials with organs taken from executed prisoners in China. The company respected local regulations and industry ethical standards. However, medical associations condemned organs from executed prisoners on moral grounds. Human rights organizations demanded that Roche ended its clinical trials in China immediately. Students are expected to review the economic and ethical issues regarding the outsourcing of clinical trials to controversial human rights contexts, and discuss how to make business decisions when there are conflicts between making profit and ethical considerations. Was Roche complicit in the human rights violations that were related to its clinical trials? Future patients might benefit from these clinical trials. Do profit and the greater good, in general, trump morals?

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