Using empirical data to inform the ethical evaluation of placebo controlled trials

Science and Engineering Ethics 10 (1):29-35 (2004)
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There has been considerable debate about the ethical acceptability of using placebo-controls in clinical research. Although this debate has been rich in rhetoric, considering that much of this research is predicated upon the assumption that data from this research is vital to clinical decision-making, it is ironic that researchers have introduced little data into these discussions. Using some published research concerning the use of placebo-controls in clinical research in hypertension and psychiatric drug trials, I suggest some ways that such data might be incorporated into the ethical analysis concerning placebo use in clinical trials. This approach promises to be important for enhancing conceptual and scientific understanding as well as public policy decision-making.



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