Although informed consent is important in clinical research, questions persist regarding when it is necessary, what it requires, and how it should be obtained. The standard view in research ethics is that the function of informed consent is to respect individual autonomy. However, consent processes are multidimensional and serve other ethical functions as well. These functions deserve particular attention when barriers to consent exist. We argue that consent serves seven ethically important and conceptually distinct functions. The first four functions pertain (...) principally to individual participants: providing transparency; allowing control and authorization; promoting concordance with participants' values; and protecting and promoting welfare interests. Three other functions are systemic or policy focused: promoting trust; satisfying regulatory requirements; and promoting integrity in research. Reframing consent around these functions can guide approaches to consent that are context sensitive and that maximize achievable goals. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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).
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)
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)
Questions have been raised over the acceptability of conducting human challenge studies in low and middle income countries. Most of these concerns are based on theoretical considerations and there exists little data on the attitudes of stakeholders in these countries. This study examines the view of researchers and REC members in Thailand regarding the design and conduct of challenge studies in the country. A questionnaire was developed based on ethical frameworks for human challenge studies. The target respondents included those who (...) had experience with health-related research at universities, non-university hospitals, and research institutes. A total of 240 respondents completed the on-line survey. In general, the respondents felt that the ethical issues raised by human challenge studies in LMICS do not differ significantly from those in high income countries, including: scientific rationale, safety, appropriate risks, and robust informed consent process. In contrast, issues that have been described as important for human challenge studies in LMICs were rated as having lower importance, including: a publicly available rationale, national priority, and community engagement. Responses did not vary significantly between researchers in different fields, nor between researchers and REC members. These findings provide an important perspective for assessing existing frameworks for human challenges studies in LMICs. (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)
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)
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.
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)
: 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.
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)
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)
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)
: 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)
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)
When a patient lacks decision-making capacity and has not left a clear advance directive, there is now widespread agreement that patient-designated and next-of-kin surrogates should implement substituted judgment within a process of shared decision-making. Specifically, after discussing the “best scientific evidence available, as well as the patient's values, goals, and preferences” with the patient's clinicians, the patient-designated or next-of-kin surrogate should attempt to determine what decision the patient would have made in the circumstances. To the extent that this approach works, (...) it seems to provide about as much respect for the autonomy of incapacitated patients as we could ask for. But, as articles in this issue of the Report by Jeffrey Berger and by Ellen Robinson and colleagues emphasize, reality presents challenges. (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)
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 recent Common Rule revision process took almost a decade and the resulting changes are fairly modest, particularly when compared to the ambitious ideas proposed in the advance notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of proposed rulemaking. Furthermore, the revision process did not even attempt to tackle any of the Common Rule subparts pertaining to vulnerable populations where commentators think the rules unduly restrict important research. We believe that this was a missed opportunity to make desirable changes, and that given (...) the usual process the next opportunity to revisit the Common Rule is unacceptably remote. In this article, we argue that the Common Rule should be regularly reassessed, with a mechanism for making substantive changes. Drawing on lessons learned from the recent revision process, we make recommendations about ways to structure future attempts to maximize the ability to make timely and necessary changes. (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)
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)
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)
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)
The Standard View in research ethics maintains that, under certain conditions, investigators may deceive subjects and may enroll subjects without their consent. In contrast, it is always impermissible to coerce subjects to enroll, even when the same conditions are satisfied. This view raises a question that, as far as we are aware, has received no attention in the literature. Why is it always impermissible to undermine the validity of subjects’ consent through coercion, but it can be permissible to undermine the (...) validity of subjects’ consent through deception, and it can be permissible to enroll subjects without any consent at all? The present analysis suggests that the answer traces to the conditions on the appropriate treatment of subjects. This conclusion suggests that some requirements for human subjects research, and for valid consent more generally, trace not to the protection of subjects per se but to the proper behavior of agents. (shrink)
Ethical issues related to comparative effectiveness research, or research that compares existing standards of care, have recently received considerable attention. In this paper we focus on how Ethics Review Committees should evaluate the risks of comparative effectiveness research. We discuss what has been a prominent focus in the debate about comparative effectiveness research, namely that it is justified when “nothing is known” about the comparative effectiveness of the available alternatives. We argue that this focus may be misleading. Rather, we should (...) focus on the fact that some experts believe that the evidence points in favor of one intervention, whereas other experts believe that the evidence favors the alternative. We will then introduce a case that illustrates this point, and based on that, discuss how ERCs should deal with such cases of expert disagreement. We argue that ERCs have a duty to assess the range of expert opinions and based on that assessment arrive at a risk judgment about the study under consideration. We also argue that assessment of expert disagreement is important for the assignment of risk level to a clinical trial: what is the basis for expert opinions, how strong is the evidence appealed to by various experts, and how can clinical trial monitoring affect the possible increased risk of clinical trial participation. (shrink)
Controversy persists over the ethics of compensating research participants and providing posttrial benefits to communities in developing countries. Little is known about residents' views on these subjects. In this study, interviews about compensation and posttrial benefits from a hypothetical HIV vaccine trial were conducted in Uganda’s Rakai District. Most respondents said researchers owed the community posttrial benefits and research compensation, but opinions differed as to what these should be. Debates about posttrial benefits and compensation rarely include residents' views like these, (...) but future ones should. (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.
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