Relational autonomy theorists attempt to accommodate social embeddedness within a conception of autonomy. These attempts are conceptually messy, at best, and category errors, at worst. Rejecting the liberal conception of autonomy due to feminist concerns is more helpfully answered by the neorepublican notion of freedom as nondomination. The conception of freedom as nondomination captures the values that motivate the relational turn in moral and political theory and does so in a conceptually neater way than attempting to accommodate those concerns in (...) our accounts of autonomy. (shrink)
It has long been taken for granted that clinical research involving human subjects is ethical only if it holds out the prospect of producing socially valuable knowledge. Recently, this social value requirement has come under scrutiny, with prominent ethicists arguing that the social value requirement cannot be substantiated as an ethical limit on clinical research, and others attempting to offer new support. In this paper, I argue that both criticisms and existing defenses of the social value requirement are predicated on (...) what I call the “transactional model of stakeholder obligations”. I go on to problematize this framework, and to introduce an alternative framework for conceptualizing ethical obligations within clinical research. In defending this framework, which I call the “basic structure model of stakeholder obligations”, I also demonstrate how it provides a stronger grounding for the social value requirement that is not vulnerable to critiques grounded in the transactional model. (shrink)
Ethicists have long recognized that two necessary features of ethical research are scientific validity and social value. Yet despite a significant literature surrounding the validity component of this dictate, until recently there has been little attention paid to unpacking what the social value component might require. This article introduces a framework for assessing the social value of research, and in particular, for determining whether a given research program is likely to have significant social value of the kind necessary to fulfill (...) the social value requirement. The article goes on to illustrate how this framework can provide a clearer account of the responsiveness requirement, an ethical dictum that is oft-repeated but whose content and value as a guideline in international research remains contested. Although I introduce this conception of social value in the context of the responsiveness requirement, the account offered can, and is intended to, stand alone as a tool for the assessment of the social value of research. As such it can be usefully applied to discussions about the value of comparative effectiveness trials, the assessment of the continued proliferation of me-too drugs and the research done to develop them, the demand for public access to study-generated data, and persistent deficits in the publication of negative results. (shrink)
This paper examines the moral force of exploitation in developing world research agreements. Taking for granted that some clinical research which is conducted in the developing world but funded by developed world sponsors is exploitative, it asks whether a third party would be morally justified in enforcing limits on research agreements in order to ensure more fair and less exploitative outcomes. This question is particularly relevant when such exploitative transactions are entered into voluntarily by all relevant parties, and both research (...) sponsors and host communities benefit from the resulting agreements. I show that defenders of the claim that exploitation ought to be permitted rely on a mischaracterization of certain forms of interference as unjustly paternalistic and two dubious empirical assumptions about the results of regulation. The view I put forward is that by evaluating a system of constraints on international research agreements, rather than individual transaction-level interference, we can better assess the alternatives to permitting exploitative research agreements. (shrink)
Ethical oversight of clinical research is one of the primary means of ensuring that human subjects are protected from the natural bias of researchers and research institutions in favor of experimentation. At a minimum, effective oversight should ensure that risks are minimized and reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits, protect vulnerable subjects from potential coercion or undue influence, ensure full and informed consent, and promote the equitable distribution of the risks and benefits of research. Because these assessments often involve value (...) judgments for which there are no agreed-upon objective standards, we rely on deliberative procedures thought to have the greatest likelihood of producing the right or best outcomes. Concerns about the potential for improperly functioning IRBs to waste scarce human and institutional resources and impede biomedical progress have motivated a surge in empirical research assessing their procedures and outcomes. Yet within this literature, there has been minimal attention paid to the social scientific evidence regarding how individuals and deliberating groups make decisions, nor how those data might inform IRB practice. This essay seeks to fill that gap, locating recent empirical data on IRB composition and process within the context of data regarding what I call “deliberative pathologies,” or instances when deliberation fails to live up to one or more aspect of the deliberative ideal because of systematic biases in the ways participants interact. The paper goes on to make evidence-based recommendations to reduce the vulnerability of IRB deliberations to the kinds of pathologies discussed and indicate directions for future research. (shrink)
Patient-funded trials are gaining traction as a means of accelerating clinical translation. However, such trials sidestep mechanisms that promote rigor, relevance, efficiency, and fairness. We recommend that funding bodies or research institutions establish mechanisms for merit review of patient-funded trials, and we offer some basic criteria for evaluating PFT protocols.
In light of the growth in the conduct of international clinical research in developing populations, this paper seeks to explore what is owed to developing world communities who host international clinical research. Although existing paradigms for assigning and assessing benefits to host communities offer valuable insight, I criticize their failure to distinguish between those benefits which can justify the conduct of research in a developing world setting and those which cannot. I argue that the justification for human subjects research is (...) fundamentally grounded in the social value of knowledge, and that this value is context-dependent in a manner which should inform our ethical evaluation of the conduct of research in specific settings. I propose a new framework for the assessment of research benefits assigned to developing world host communities, a natural implication of which is to limit the types of research projects which may permissibly be conducted in developing world settings. (shrink)
There has been a growing concern over establishing norms that ensure the ethically acceptable and scientifically sound conduct of clinical trials. Among the leading norms internationally are the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki, guidelines by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences, the International Conference on Harmonization's standards for industry, and the CONSORT group's reporting norms, in addition to the influential U.S. Federal Common Rule, Food and Drug Administration's body of regulations, and information sheets by the Department of (...) Health and Human Services. There are also many norms published at more local levels by official agencies and professional groups.Any account of international standards should cover both scientific and ethical norms at once – the two are conceptually intertwined. Recent sources recognize that “[s]cientifically unsound research on human subjects is unethical in that it exposes research subjects to risks without possible benefit.”. (shrink)
A growing proportion of clinical research funded by pharmaceutical companies, high-income country research agencies, and not-for-profit funders is conducted in low- and middle-income settings. Disparities in wealth and access to healthcare between the populations where new interventions are often tested and those where many of them are ultimately marketed raise concerns about exploitation. This chapter examines several ethical requirements frequently advanced as mechanisms for protecting research subjects in underserved communities from exploitation and evaluates the effectiveness of those mechanisms as responses (...) to exploitation worries. It goes on to highlight where the conceptual frameworks relied upon by research ethicists must be improved if we are to fully understand the nature of the moral claims and obligations that arise in research conducted in underserved communities. (shrink)
Within bioethics as well as in broader clinical practice, support for transgender and gender‐questioning adolescent access to pubertal suppression has often relied heavily on the desire to prevent risky, self‐destructive, and suicidal behavior. We argue that framing justifications for access to puberty suppression in this way can actually be harmful to both individual patients as well as to the broader trans population. This justification for access to care makes such access precarious, limits its scope, and introduces perverse incentives to the (...) patient population that is being served. We go on to offer an alternative, positive defense of access to puberty‐blocking treatment for transgender youth grounded in the child's right to an open future. We argue that decisions related to pubertal suppression are both importantly weighty and potentially irreversible, and show why this justification is preferable to so‐called “informed consent” approaches. (shrink)
California has focused on health equity in the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan. The Blueprint for a Safer Economy assigns each of California’s 58 counties into 1 of 4 tiers based on 2 metrics: test positivity rate and adjusted case rate. To advance to the next less-restrictive tier, counties must meet that tier’s test positivity and adjusted case rate thresholds. In addition, counties must have a plan for targeted investments within disadvantaged communities, and counties with more than 106 000 residents must (...) meet an equity metric. California's explicit incorporation of health equity into its reopening plan underscores the interrelated fate of its residents during the COVID-19 pandemic and creates incentives for action. This article evaluates the beneﬁts and challenges of this novel health equity focus, and outlines recommendations for other US states to address disparities in their reopening plans. (shrink)
The author replies to a letter to the editor from Felicitas Sofia Holzer concerning Wenner’s article “The Social Value Requirement in Research: From the Transactional to the Basic Structure Model of Stakeholder Obligations,” in the Hastings Center Report’s January‐February 2019 issue.