Ethics of research involving mandatory drug testing of high school athletes in oregon

American Journal of Bioethics 4 (1):25 – 31 (2004)
Abstract
There is consensus that children have questionable decisional capacity and, therefore, in general a parent or a guardian must give permission to enroll a child in a research study. Moreover, freedom from duress and coercion, the cardinal rule in research involving adults, is even more important for children. This principle is embodied prominently in the Nuremberg Code (1947) and is embodied in various federal human research protection regulations. In a program named "SATURN" (Student Athletic Testing Using Random Notification), each school in the Oregon public-school system may implement a mandatory drug-testing program for high school student athletes. A prospective study to identify drug use among student-athletes, SATURN is designed both to evaluate the influence of random drug testing and to validate the survey data through identification of individuals who do not report drug use. The enrollment of students in the drug-testing study is a requirement for playing a school sport. In addition to the coercive nature of this study design, there were ethically questionable practices in recruitment, informed consent, and confidentiality. This article concerns the question of whether research can be conducted with high school students in conjunction with a mandatory drug-testing program, while adhering to prevailing ethical standards regarding human-subjects research and specifically the participation of children in research.
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