April 13, 2024


With South Korean researchers under the hammer for allegedly lax informed consent procedures, it is interesting to note a strain of thought in the US which proposes giving the whole notion a radical shake-up.

One of the papers most cited by academics in the social sciences in November, according the ISI Essential Science Indicators, argues that we have a duty to participate in clinical research. Rosamund Rhodes, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, says that the current standards inhibit research and therein oppose the advancement of medicine and the interests of patients”.

Dr Rhodes’s argument is that medical research is so beneficial to society that we all have a moral duty to do our “fair share”. Consequently, she questions whether informed consent should be “the primary focus of research oversight”. “Clinicians should invite or even urge patients to participate in research,” she says, “and that patients who refuse to participate have to justify their refusal at least to themselves.”

She acknowledges that this approach would radically alter the conduct of medical research. However, she concedes that “research conscription” is not possible at the moment because millions of American are uninsured and do not share in the benefits conferred by medical research.