On the need for improved protections of incapacitated and non-benefiting research subjects

Bioethics 26 (1):15-21 (2012)
In this article, it is claimed that the protective provisions for adults with impaired decision-making capacity are misguided, insofar as they do not conclusively state whether research on this group should be permitted only as an exception, and as they arbitrarily allow for some groups to benefit from such research while others will not. Moreover, the presumed or former will of the subject is given insufficient weight, and the minimal risk standard does not make sense in this context. Because of these problems, the present guidelines allow for the possibility of vulnerable people being exploited, something that is hidden behind a guise of solidarity. Instead we need to address the real issues at stake by rewriting the present statutes. It is suggested that new guidelines should be in some continuity with earlier efforts. However, in order to protect these subjects there is additional need for appointed representatives who monitor research and for legal obligations to compensate for any injuries suffered. Without these or similar measures we won't have an adequate system in place for the protection of non-benefiting persons who are unable to consent to research
Keywords research ethics  minimal risk  vulnerable subjects  incapacitated subjects
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