For the Common Good: Philosophical Foundations of Research Ethics by Alex John London

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 50 (2):390-391 (2022)
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Abstract

Written in response to what he recognizes as the problematic philosophical underpinnings of “orthodox research ethics,” Alex John London’s For the Common Good reimagines what is called for in any effort to create a better system of oversight and regulation in biomedical research. London weaves a common thread — justice — through this historical and critical account of the practice of research ethics and its organization of stakeholders, institutions and regulations. By introducing the idea of “a common good” London reframes the narrative and responsibilities of the research ethics field to demonstrate that scientific research and regard for the rights and welfare of individuals are not mutually exclusive. This impressive monograph encourages its readers to push past the limitations of traditional research ethics to consider the context in which the discipline is embedded. That is, rather than settling for analysis at the level of researchers and research participants alone, London encourages us to expand our inquiry to encompass a wider array of stakeholders who co-labor in the social undertaking of biomedical knowledge production. London accomplishes the difficult task of upstream analysis — turning his attention to the conditions and assumptions which create ethical dilemmas rather than applying a retrospective ethical salve to injuries near-guaranteed by a broken system. As opposed to the limited domain of orthodox research ethics (researchers, participants, and the institutional bodies which regulate interaction between the two) London also considers the role and contributions of affected communities, pharmaceutical firms, philanthropic organizations, and journal editors among others.

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Yolonda Wilson
Howard University

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