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Legitimate requests and indecent proposals: matters of justice in the ethical assessment of phase I trials involving competent patients


The death of Jesse Gelsinger in 1999 during a gene therapy trial raised many questions about the ethical review of medical research. Here, the author argues that the principle of justice is interpreted too narrowly and receives insufficient emphasis and that what we permit in terms of bodily invasion affects the value we place on individuals. Medical research is a societally supported activity. As such, the author contends that justice requires that invasive medical research demonstrates sufficiently compelling societal benefit. Many consider this societal benefit to be self evident. However, medical research is a complex activity; it yields new treatments but also creates financial rewards and affects health resource allocation. As research evolves into a multibillion pound, multinational enterprise, justice requires a much broader analysis of societal benefit. Without such evaluation we risk undermining the value of bodily integrity and of research participants.

  • Belmont
  • clinical research
  • justice
  • non-therapeutic
  • societal benefit

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