Different types of consent are used to obtain human biospecimens for future research. This variation has resulted in confusion regarding what research is permitted, inadvertent constraints on future research, and research proceeding without consent. The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center's Department of Bioethics held a workshop to consider the ethical acceptability of addressing these concerns by using broad consent for future research on stored biospecimens. Multiple bioethics scholars, who have written on these issues, discussed the reasons for consent, the (...) range of consent strategies, and gaps in our understanding, and concluded with a proposal for broad initial consent coupled with oversight and, when feasible, ongoing provision of information to donors. This article describes areas of agreement and areas that need more research and dialogue. Given recent proposed changes to the Common Rule, and new guidance regarding storing and sharing data and samples, this is an important and tim.. (shrink)
Debate surrounding the SUPPORT study highlights the absence of consensus regarding what information should be disclosed to potential research participants. Some commentators endorse the view that clinical research should be subject to high disclosure standards, even when it is testing standard-of-care interventions. Others argue that trials assessing standard-of-care interventions need to disclose only the information that is disclosed in the clinical care setting. To resolve this debate, it is important to identify the ethical concerns raised by clinical research and determine (...) what consent process is needed to address them. (shrink)
Pediatric research without the potential for clinical benefit is vital to improving pediatric medical care. This research also raises ethical concern and is regarded by courts and commentators as unethical. While at least 10 justifications have been proposed in response, all have fundamental limitations. This article describes and defends a new justification based on the fact that enrollment in clinical research offers children the opportunity to contribute to a valuable project. Contributing as children to valuable projects can benefit individuals in (...) two ways. First, individuals may come to ?embrace? the contributions they made as children. Second, contributing to valuable projects can lead to a better overall life. Because these potential benefits can outweigh small research risks, they provide a justification for pediatric research without the potential for clinical benefit, when it poses low risks and has the potential to benefit others in important ways. (shrink)
Guidelines for health research focus on protecting individual research subjects. It is also vital to protect the communities involved in health research. In particular, a number of studies have been criticized on the grounds that they exploited host communities. The present paper attempts to address these concerns by providing an analysis of community exploitation and, based on this analysis, determining what safeguards are needed to protect communities in health research against exploitation. (edited).
During the recent Ebola epidemic, some commentators and stakeholders argued that it would be unethical to carry out a study that withheld a potential treatment from affected individuals with such a serious, untreatable disease. As a result, the initial trials of experimental treatments did not have control arms, despite important scientific reasons for their inclusion. In this paper, we consider whether the duty to rescue entails that it would be unethical to withhold an experimental treatment from patient-participants with serious diseases (...) for which there are no effective treatments, even when doing so is scientifically necessary to test the effectiveness of the treatment. We argue that the duty to rescue will rarely apply. The context of medical research also throws new light on the content of the duty to rescue, since the interests of future patients—who stand to benefit from the fruits of medical research—are relevant to whether the duty applies. (shrink)
In standard medical care, physicians select treatments for patients based on clinical judgment, considering which treatment is best for the individual patient, given the patient's history and circumstances. In contrast, investigators conducting randomized clinical trials select treatments for participants based on a random selection process. Because this process represents a significant departure from the norms of standard medical care, it is widely assumed that potential research participants must understand randomization to give valid informed consent. This assumption, together with data that (...) many research participants do not understand randomization, implies that randomized clinical trials often fail to obtain adequately informed consent. Before accepting this conclusion, and before initiating extensive efforts to improve research participants' understanding of randomization, we should assess the plausible, but rarely analyzed assumption that participants need to understand randomization to give valid informed consent for randomized clinical trials. (shrink)
The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa began in the spring of 2014 and has since caused the deaths of over 6,000 people. Since there are no approved treatments or prevention modalities specifically targeted at Ebola Virus Disease , debate has focused on whether unproven interventions should be offered to Ebola patients outside of clinical trials. Those engaged in the debate have responded rapidly to a complex and evolving crisis, however, and this debate has not provided much opportunity for in-depth (...) analysis. Additionally, the existing literature on access to unproven therapies has focused on contexts like HIV/AIDS and oncology, which are very different than the Ebola epidemic. In this paper, we examine the ethical issues surrounding access to unproven therapies in the context of the recent Ebola outbreak to yield new insights about this controversial and unsettled issue. We argue first that, in this context, the interests of patients in obtaining access to unproven therapies are not fully aligned.. (shrink)
The principle that physicians should always act in the best interests of the present patient is widely endorsed. At the same time, and often within the same document, it is recognised that there are appropriate exceptions to this principle. Unfortunately, little, if any, guidance is provided regarding which exceptions are appropriate and how they should be handled. These circumstances might be tenable if the appropriate exceptions were rare. Yet, evaluation of the literature reveals that there are numerous exceptions, several of (...) which pervade clinical medicine. This situation leaves physicians without adequate guidance on when to allow exceptions and how to address them, increasing the chances for unfairness in practice. The present article considers the range of exceptions, illustrates how the lack of guidance poses ethical concern and describes an alternative account of physician obligations to address this concern. (shrink)
: In Grimes v. Kennedy Krieger Institute (KKI), the Maryland Court of Appeals, while noting that U.S. federal regulations include risk standards for pediatric research, endorses its own risk standards. The Grimes case has implications for the debate over whether the minimal risk standard should be interpreted based on the risks in the daily lives of most children (the objective interpretation) or the risks in the daily lives of the children who will be enrolled in a given study (the subjective (...) interpretation). The court's use of the objective interpretation to block studies like the KKI study protects individual children who are worse off than the average child. Unfortunately, this approach also may block research intended to improve the lives of these same individuals. A similar dilemma arises in the context of multinational research, suggesting that a "modified objective standard," proposed to address this dilemma in the multinational setting, may offer a framework for addressing the dilemma in the context of pediatric research as well. (shrink)
Research studies and interventions sometimes offer potential benefits to subjects that compensate for the risks they face. Other studies and interventions, which I refer to as “nonbeneficial” research, do not offer subjects a compensating potential for benefit. These studies and interventions have the potential to exploit subjects for the benefit of others, a concern that is especially acute when investigators enroll individuals who are unable to give informed consent. US regulations for research with human subjects attempt to address this concern (...) by mandating strict protections for nonbeneficial research with subjects who cannot consent. Typically, humans who cannot consent, such as children, may be enrolled in nonbeneficial research only when it poses low risks and has the potential to gather information of sufficient value to justify the risks, an appropriate surrogate gives permission on the individual’s behalf and the individual agrees (assents). In contrast, US regulations for nonbeneficial research with nonhuman primates do not include these protections, even though it too involves subjects who cannot consent and who face risks for the benefit of others. Is this difference in regulatory protections justified? Or does the principle of fairness—treat like cases alike—imply that regulations for nonbeneficial research with nonhuman primates should include protections similar to those that apply to nonbeneficial research with humans who cannot consent? (shrink)
Dual-track assessment directs research ethics committees to assess the risks of research interventions based on the unclear distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic interventions. The net risks test, in contrast, relies on the clinically familiar method of assessing the risks and benefits of interventions in comparison to the available alternatives and also focuses attention of the RECs on the central challenge of protecting research participants.Research guidelines around the world recognise that clinical research is ethical only when the risks to participants are (...) reasonable.1 Appropriate implementation of this requirement is vital to protecting research participants and allowing research to proceed when it poses acceptable risks. Unfortunately, as the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission notes: “current regulations do not further elaborate how risks and potential benefits are to be assessed, and little additional guidance is available to IRBs.”1The NBAC, as well as numerous commentators, recommend that research ethics committees , ethics review committees and institutional review boards should adopt what may be called dual-track risk assessment.2–5 Yet, dual-track assessment unnecessarily divides research interventions into two different categories before assessing their risks and relies on the unclear distinction between therapeutic and non-therapeutic interventions. As a result, dual-track assessment provides RECs with confusing guidance and has the potential to block valuable research that poses acceptable risks. This paper describes one alternative, the net risks test, and argues that this approach offers a better method for assessing research risks, one that puts RECs in a position to protect participants without blocking appropriate research studies.BACKGROUNDClinical research exposes participants to interventions and procedures to gather systematic data that may be used to improve overall health and well-being. To ensure that research is ethical, RECs must ensure that the risks and burdens to participants are not excessive and that …. (shrink)
It has recently been proposed to incorporate the use of a “Patient Preference Predictor” (PPP) into the process of making treatment decisions for incapacitated patients. A PPP would predict which treatment option a given incapacitated patient would most likely prefer, based on the individual’s characteristics and information on what treatment preferences are correlated with these characteristics. Including a PPP in the shared decision-making process between clinicians and surrogates has the potential to better realize important ethical goals for making treatment decisions (...) for incapacitated patients. However, developing and implementing a PPP poses significant practical challenges. The present paper discusses these practical challenges and considers ways to address them. (shrink)
A good deal has been written on the ethics of peer review, especially in the scientific and medical literatures. In contrast, we are unaware of any articles on the ethics of peer review in bioethics. Recognising this gap, we evaluate the extant proposals regarding ethical standards for peer review in general and consider how they apply to bioethics. We argue that scholars have an obligation to perform peer review based on the extent to which they personally benefit from the peer (...) review process. We also argue, contrary to existing proposals and guidelines, that it can be appropriate for peer reviewers to benefit in their own scholarship from the manuscripts they review. With respect to bioethics in particular, we endorse double-blind review and suggest several ways in which the peer review process might be improved. (shrink)
There is wide agreement that communities in lower-income countries should benefit when they participate in multinational research. Debate now focuses on how and to what extent these communities should benefit. This debate has identified compelling reasons to reject the claim that whatever benefits a community agrees to accept are necessarily fair. Yet, those who conduct clinical research may conclude from this rejection that there is no reason to involve communities in the process of deciding how they benefit. Against this possibility, (...) the present manuscript argues that involving host communities in this process helps to promote four important goals: protecting host communities, respecting host communities, promoting transparency, and enhancing social value. (shrink)
The U.S. federal regulations require investigators conducting nonbeneficial research to obtain the assent of children who are capable of providing it. Unfortunately, there has been no analysis of which children are capable of assent or even what abilities ground the capacity to give assent. Why should investigators be required to obtain the positive agreement of some children, but not others, before enrolling them in research that does not offer a compensating potential for direct benefit? We argue that the scope of (...) children's research decision making should be based on the principles of respect for autonomy and nonmaleficence. These principles imply that the threshold for assent should be fixed at 14 years of age, and a dissent requirement should be adopted for all children in the context of nonbeneficial research. (shrink)
: When children and incapacitated adults are enrolled in research that cannot directly benefit them, they can be exposed to no more than "minimal" risks, according to guidelines accepted around the world. We need a new standard for what "minimal" risks are, howeve--one that recognizes that participating in nonbeneficial research is like participating in a charitable activity. Such a standard appears likely to provide more stringent protections for these vulnerable populations.
We argue that charging people to participate in research is likely to undermine the fundamental ethical bases of clinical research, especially the principles of social value, scientific validity, and fair subject selection.
Guidelines around the world require children to provide assent for their participation in most research studies. Yet, little further guidance is provided on how review committees should implement this requirement, including which children are capable of providing assent and when the requirement for assent may be waived on the grounds that the research offers participating children the potential for important clinical benefit. The present paper argues that the assent requirement is supported by the importance of allowing children who are capable (...) to make their own decisions. This suggests children are capable of assent when they become able to understand the research in question. While development varies across individual children, existing data suggest most children develop this ability by approximately age 14. Until instruments are developed to assess the assent capacity of individual children, this age should be used as the threshold for assent. In addition, the importance of protecting children from harm suggests that the sustained dissent of all children, including those who are unable to provide assent, should be respected. While the assent requirement may be waived when research participation offers the potential for important medical benefit that is unavailable outside the research context, analysis suggests that children’s sustained dissent should be respected in all cases. (shrink)
Many guidelines and commentators endorse the view that clinical research is ethically acceptable only when it has social value, in the sense of collecting data which might be used to improve health. A version of this social value requirement is included in the Declaration of Helsinki and the Nuremberg Code, and is codified in many national research regulations. At the same time, there have been no systematic analyses of why social value is an ethical requirement for clinical research. Recognizing this (...) gap in the literature, recent articles by Alan Wertheimer and David Resnik argue that the extant justifications for the social value requirement are unpersuasive. Both authors conclude, contrary to almost all current guidelines and regulations, that it can be acceptable across a broad range of cases to conduct clinical research which is known prospectively to have no social value. The present article assesses this conclusion by critically evaluating the ethical and policy considerations relevant to the claim that clinical research must have social value. This analysis supports the standard view that social value is an ethical requirement for the vast majority of clinical research studies and should be mandated by applicable guidelines and policies. (shrink)
There is much philosophical literature on the duty to rescue. Individuals who encounter and could save, at relatively little cost to themselves, a person at risk of losing life or limb are morally obligated to do so. Yet little has been said about the other side of the issue. There are cases in which the need for rescue could have been reasonably avoided by the rescuee. We argue for a duty to take rescue precautions, providing an account of the circumstances (...) in which it arises. This novel duty has important implications for public policy. We apply it to the situation of some of the uninsured in the United States. Given the US clinician's duty to provide emergency care to all people regardless of ability to pay, some of the uninsured have a moral duty to purchase health insurance. We defend the duty against objections, including the possibility that a right to rescue can be waived, thus undermining a duty to take rescue precautions, that the duty of many professionals is voluntarily incurred, and that a distinction between actively assumed and passively assumed risks matters morally. (shrink)
To give valid informed consent to participate in clinical research, potential participants should understand the risks, potential benefits, procedures, and alternatives. Potential participants also should understand that they are being invited to participate in research. Yet it is unclear what potential participants need to understand to satisfy this particular requirement. As a result, it is unclear what additional information investigators should disclose about the research; and it is also unclear when failures of understanding in this respect undermine the validity of (...) potential participants' informed consent. An analysis of individuals' interests suggests that potential participants need to understand three additional facts to understand that they are being invited to participate in research: 1) research contribution: those who enroll in the study will be contributing to a project designed to gather generalizable knowledge to benefit others in the future; 2) research relationship: the investigators will rely on participants' efforts to gather the generalizable knowledge to benefit others; and 3) research impact: the extent to which participating in the study will alter what participants do and what happens to them. (shrink)
The standard approach to treatment decision making for incapacitated patients often fails to provide treatment consistent with the patient’s preferences and values and places significant stress on surrogate decision makers. These shortcomings provide compelling reason to search for methods to improve current practice. Shared decision making between surrogates and clinicians has important advantages, but it does not provide a way to determine patients’ treatment preferences. Hence, shared decision making leaves families with the stressful challenge of identifying the patient’s preferred treatment (...) option. To address this concern, the present paper proposes to incorporate the use of a “Patient Preference Predictor” (PPP) into the shared decision-making process between surrogates and clinicians. A PPP would predict which treatment option a given incapacitated patient would most likely prefer, based on the individual’s characteristics and information on what treatment preferences are correlated with these characteristics. Use of a PPP is likely to increase the chances that incapacitated patients are treated consistent with their preferences and values and might reduce the stress and burden on their surrogates. Including a PPP in the shared decision-making process therefore has the potential to realize important ethical goals for making treatment decisions for incapacitated patients. The present paper justifies this approach on conceptual and normative grounds. (shrink)
It is widely held that individuals who are unable to provide informed consent should be enrolled in clinical research only when the risks are low, or the research offers them the prospect of direct benefit. There is now a rich literature on when the risks of clinical research are low enough to enroll individuals who cannot consent. Much less attention has focused on which benefits of research participation count as ‘direct’, and the few existing accounts disagree over how this crucial (...) concept should be defined. This disagreement raises concern over whether those who cannot consent, including children and adults with severe dementia, are being adequately protected. The present paper attempts to address this concern by considering first what additional protections are needed for these vulnerable individuals. This analysis suggests that the extant definitions of direct benefits either provide insufficient protection for research subjects or pose excessive obstacles to appropriate research. This analysis also points to a modified definition of direct benefits with the potential to avoid these two extremes, protecting individuals who cannot consent without blocking appropriate research. (shrink)
The prevailing “segregated model” for understanding clinical research sharply separates it from clinical care and subjects it to extensive regulations and guidelines. This approach is based on the fact that clinical research relies on procedures and methods—research biopsies, blinding, randomization, fixed treatment protocols, placebos—that pose risks and burdens to participants in order to collect data that might benefit all patients. Reliance on these methods raises the potential for exploitation and unfairness, and thus points to the need for independent ethical review (...) and more extensive informed consent. In contrast, it is widely assumed that clinical care does not raise these ethical concerns because it is designed to promote the best interests of individual patients. The segregation of clinical research from clinical care has been largely effective at protecting research participants. At the same time, this approach ignores the fact that several aspects of standard clinical care, such as clinician training and scheduling, also pose some risks and burdens to present patients for the benefit of all patients. We argue that recently proposed learning health care systems offer a way to address this concern, and better protect patients, by developing integrated review and consent procedures. Specifically, current approaches base the need for independent ethical review and more extensive informed consent on whether an activity is categorized as clinical research or clinical care. An ethically sounder approach, which could be incorporated into learning health care systems, would be to base the need for independent ethical review and more extensive informed consent on the extent to which an activity poses risks to present patients for the benefit of all patients. (shrink)
The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was designed to increase health insurance coverage in the United States. Its most controversial feature is the requirement that US residents purchase health insurance. Opponents of the mandate argue that requiring people to contribute to the collective good is inconsistent with respect for individual liberty. Rather than appeal to the collective good, this Viewpoint argues for a duty to buy health insurance based on the moral duty individuals have to reduce certain burdens (...) they pose on others. When some people have a duty to rescue, others may have a duty to take rescue precautions, in this case, to purchase health insurance to cover acute and emergency care needs. Requiring that individuals meet this obligation is consistent with respect of individual liberty. (shrink)
Debriefing is a standard ethical requirement for human research involving the use of deception. Little systematic attention, however, has been devoted to explaining the ethical significance of debriefing and the specific ethical functions that it serves. In this article, we develop an account of debriefing as a tool of moral accountability for the prima facie wrong of deception. Specifically, we contend that debriefing should include a responsibility to promote transparency by explaining the deception and its rationale, to provide an apology (...) to subjects for infringing the principle of respect for persons, and to offer subjects an opportunity to withdraw their data. We also present recommendations concerning the discussion of deception in scientific articles reporting the results of research using deception. (shrink)
Work on the therapeutic misconception suggests that investigators should ensure that potential research subjects understand the fundamental differences between clinical research and clinical care. Yet, what potential research subjects should understand depends on their circumstances and the study in question. This analysis implies that researchers and review committees should stop attempting to define, measure, and dispel the therapeutic misconception, and instead should focus on what potential subjects should understand to participate in individual studies.
It is widely agreed that clinical research should satisfy a number of ethical requirements. These include requirements to address a valuable question, to select subjects fairly, and to pose appropriate risks. In contrast, there remains considerable debate over the ethical relevance of investigator intentions: Does it matter ethically whether investigators intend to collect generalizable knowledge or to benefit subjects, or both? Some commentators do not mention investigator intentions when evaluating what makes clinical research ethical (Emanuel, Wendler, and Grady 2000). Others (...) regard investigator intentions as central to the ethics of clinical research (Jonas 1969). These commentators argue that .. (shrink)
Although many of the issues surrounding innateness have received a good deal of attention lately, the basic concept of token innateness has been largely ignored. In the present paper, I try to correct this imbalance by offering an account of the innateness of token traits. I begin by explaining Stephen Stich's account of token innateness and offering a counterexample to that account. I then clarify why the contemporary biological approaches to innateness will not be able to resolve the problems that (...) beset Stich's account. From there, I develop an alternative understanding of the innateness of token traits, what I call a causal/explanatory account. The argument to be made is that token innateness is both a causal, and an explanatory, concept. After clarifying this understanding of innateness, and showing how it handles several counterexamples to other accounts, I end with some comments on what the causal/explanatory account suggests for our understanding of innateness in general. (shrink)
Data monitoring committees often are employed to review interim findings of randomised controlled trials. Interim findings are kept confidential until the data monitoring committee finds that they provide sufficiently compelling evidence regarding efficacy, typically because they have crossed the pre-defined statistical boundaries, or they raise serious concerns about safety. While this practice is vital to maintaining the scientific integrity of controlled trials and thereby ensuring their social value, it has been criticised as unethical. Commentators argue that withholding interim findings from (...) research participants is deceptive, inconsistent with valid informed consent, and a violation of respect for participants’ autonomy. The present article examines these arguments, focusing specifically on confidential data monitoring for efficacy. This practice need not be deceptive provided its use is disclosed to prospective research participants. In addition, confidential data monitoring does not make research participants worse off than they would be in the clinical setting and represents an acceptable limitation on the options available to prospective research participants. Taken together, these considerations suggest confidential data monitoring, subject to adequate safeguards, is ethically acceptable. (shrink)
Clinical research is thought to be ethically problematic and is subject to extensive regulation and oversight. Despite frequent endorsement of this view, there has been almost no systematic evaluation of why clinical research might be ethically problematic. As a result, it is difficult to determine whether the regulations to which clinical research is subject address the ethical concerns it raises. Commentators who consider this question at all tend to assume that clinical research is ethically problematic because it exposes some individuals (...) to risks for the benefit of others. Yet, many other activities that expose some individuals to risks for the benefit of others are not subject to extensive regulation and oversight. This difference raises the question of whether clinical research is distinct from these activities in normatively relevant ways and, if so, what implications this difference (or differences) has for how clinical research should be regulated and conducted. The present manuscript attempts to answer this question by comparing clinical research to two other activities that expose some individuals to risks for the benefit of others. This comparison highlights an aspect of clinical research which has received relatively little attention, namely, the active role investigators play in exposing subjects to risks. I argue that this aspect explains much of the ethical concern expressed regarding clinical research. I end by considering the normative significance of this feature and the implications it has for how clinical research should be regulated and conducted. (shrink)
Clinical research with adults who are unable to provide informed consent has the potential to improve understanding and care of a number of devasting conditions. This research also has the potential to exploit some of society's most vulnerable members. Recently, a number of task forces and individual writers have proposed guidelines to ensure that such research is both possible and ethical. Yet, there is widespread disagreement over which safeguards should be adopted. In the present paper, I consider to what extent (...) these disagreements can be resolved by appeal to a general account of the interests of subjects who are unable to consent and the conditions that must be satisfied for research enrollment to constitute exploitation of their inability to make their own decisions. (shrink)