Multiple Forms of Exploitation in International Research: The Need for Multiple Standards of Fairness

American Journal of Bioethics 10 (6):40-41 (2010)
Ballantyne correctly notes the need for clarification as to the standard of fairness that should guide nonexploitative international research on human subjects. When accounts of exploitation are applied to pharmaceutical development (as well as other areas), there is too often an uncritical acceptance that exploitation involves a form of unfairness. Moreover, these authors typically fail to produce an account of fairness by which exploitation should be identified. Ballantyne should be applauded for her attempt to inject greater clarity into these debates. Her preferred standard of fairness is problematic, however. Ballantyne fails to distinguish between at least two forms of exploitation, tied to two distinct forms of unfairness, that can take place in international research on human subjects. As I argue here, the first form of exploitation derives from transactional unfairness where researchers take special unfair advantage of research subjects. The second form of exploitation occurs when researchers take advantage of background injustices that disadvantage research subjects. As a result of this failure to differentiate between different forms of exploitation, Ballantyne misidentifies the requirements of fairness for engaging in nonexploitative international human subject research.
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DOI 10.1080/15265161.2010.482631
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Alan Wertheimer (1996). Exploitation. Princeton University Press.

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