Moral Entanglements: The Ancillary-Care Obligations of Medical Researchers

By: Henry S. Richardson

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The philosopher Henry Richardsons short book is a defense of a position on a neglected topic in medical research ethics. Clinical research ethics has been a longstanding area of study, dating back to the aftermath of the Nazi death-camp doctors and the Tuskegee syphilis study. Most ethical regulations and institutions (such as Institutiional Review Boards) have developed in response to those past abuses, including the stress on obtaining informed consent from the subject. Richardson points out that that these ethical regulations do not address one of the key dilemmas faced by medical researchers -- whether or not they have obligations towards subjects who need care not directly related to the purpose of the study, termed ancillary care obligations. Does a researcher testing an HIV vaccine in Africa have an obligation to provide anti-retrovirals to those who become HIV positive during the trial? Should a researcher studying a volunteers brain scan, who sees a possible tumor, do more than simply refer him or her to a specialist? While most would agree that some special obligation does exist in these cases, what is the basis of this obligation, and what are its limits? Richardsons analysis of those key questions and the development of his own position are at the heart of this book, which will appeal to bioethicists studying research ethics, to policy makers, and to political and moral philosophers interested in the obligations of beneficence, one of the key issues in moral theory. Philosophy recovers itself, wrote John Dewey, when it ceases to be a device for dealing with the problems of philosophers and becomes a method, cultivated by philosophers, for dealing with the problems of men. Henry Richardson confronts a problem in the ethics of medical research that is often (as his many real-life examples show) a matter of life and death. The problem is unexplored and quite difficult: Richardson finds he must craft new theory to deal with it. The theory he creates shows how we become morally entangled with others without intending to, as we enter into intimacies with them. This theory of moral entanglement is a genuine discovery in philosophy, with application across a wide range of human relationships. Since the theory was designed for medical researchers it also provides a bespoke ethical framework, as well as specific guidance, for researchers in the field. This book shows practical philosophy at its best: inspired by real problems, responding with powerful solutions. -- Leif Wenar, Chair of Ethics, Kings College London A medical researcher investigating transmission of malaria may find that a subject has another disease. Does the researcher have an obligation to devote some of the teams resources to treating this disease? The traditional principles of research ethics do not ask much less answer this important question. In this theoretically and practically rich book, Henry Richardson seeks to provide an answer and to identify issues that need further exploration. He argues that ancillary care obligations are explained by moral entanglement and cannot be justified by traditional principles of justice or the duty to rescue. He is admirably soft-hearted and tough-minded in combining his long demonstrated philosophical acuity with a deep knowledge of the problems on the ground. Richardsons book is characterized by great generosity towards those who need help, towards the problems faced by researchers, and towards the scholarly community - even those with whom he disagrees. - Alan Wertheimer, Senior Research Scholar, Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health In this important book, Henry Richardson sculpts a new path for research ethics, one that focuses on ethical obligations of ancillary-care in clinical trials and medical research, particularly in developing countries, but with relevance throughout the world. In Moral Entanglements, Richardson extends the reach of his analysis both deep within and outside the research itself, recognizing the broader moral backdrop relevant for society-wide judgments of justice, and the special relationships that exist within the medical research context, about what is or is not owed research participants in situations of medical need. Rather than leave such important decisions up to the vagaries of politics or ad hoc assessments, this book sets out a comprehensive theoretical framework with principles to guide such decisions in the everyday lives of both medical researchers and research participants. This book significantly contributes to the ethics of ancillary-care in medical and public health research and judiciously enlightens questions and potential resolutions to these vital global and domestic problems. - Jennifer Prah Ruger, Associate Professor, Yale Schools of Public Health and Medicine
Publication Date:
04 / 09 / 2012

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