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J Med Ethics 33:487-490 doi:10.1136/jme.2006.016444
  • Research ethics

Refuting the net risks test: a response to Wendler and Miller’s “Assessing research risks systematically”

  1. C Weijer1,
  2. P B Miller2
  1. 1Department of Philosophy, Talbot College, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to:
 Charles Weijer
 Department of Philosophy, Talbot College, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7; charles.weijer{at}dal.ca
  • Received 18 July 2006
  • Accepted 6 October 2006
  • Revised 3 October 2006

Abstract

Earlier in the pages of this journal (p 481), Wendler and Miller offered the “net risks test” as an alternative approach to the ethical analysis of benefits and harms in research. They have been vocal critics of the dominant view of benefit–harm analysis in research ethics, which encompasses core concepts of duty of care, clinical equipoise and component analysis. They had been challenged to come up with a viable alternative to component analysis which meets five criteria. The alternative must (1) protect research subjects; (2) allow clinical research to proceed; (3) explain how physicians may offer trial enrolment to their patients; (4) address the challenges posed by research containing a mixture of interventions and (5) define ethical standards according to which the risks and potential benefits of research may be consistently evaluated. This response argues that the net risks test meets none of these criteria and concludes that it is not a viable alternative to component analysis.

Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None declared.