The idea that people have a moral duty to participate in medical research may be gaining traction. The notion surfaced last year when utilitarian British bioethicist John Harris argued that if people are to take advantage of the benefits of medical research, they should not be freeloaders and should participate in experiments. Later in the year, American bioethicist Rosamund Rhodes questioned the universally accepted concept of informed consent and suggested that ideally there should be some form of research conscription.
Now Dr Jess Buxton, the genetics editor of BioNews, a UK newsletter published by the Progress Educational Trust, says that such an approach is a positive development. She argues that the new UK BioBank, which will collect health information from half a million volunteers, is a sign that many people would agree. “The project may even help foster a new attitude to medical science — that in order to reap the benefits of research, we must be prepared at least to support it, both as a society and as individuals,” she writes.
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