The Ethical Analysis of Risk

Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 28 (4):344-361 (2000)
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The institutional review board is the social-oversight mechanism charged with protecting research subjects. Performing this task competently requires that the IRB scrutinize informed-consent procedures, the balance of risks and potential benefits, and subject-selection procedures in research protocols. Unfortunately, it may be said that IRBs are spending too much time editing informed-consent forms and too little time analyzing the risks and potential benefits posed by research. This time mismanagement is clearly reflected in the research ethics literature. A review of articles published between 1979 and 1990 in IRB: A Review of Human Subjects Research, for example, reveals a large number of articles on informed consent and confidentiality and considerably fewer on the assessment of risks and potential harms, study design, and subject-selection procedures.



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Charles Weijer
University of Western Ontario