Moral issues in medical experimentation on humans

Carl Cohen
1979 Philosophic exchange  
Experimentation on human subjects creates moral problems of some complexity. The great frequency of such experimentation, its importance, and its unavoidability press us to resolve these problems. Thousands of medical experiments on humans are in progress at any given time; in most of these the ri sks to the subjects is slight, but in some it is substantial. Upon the outcomes of such experiments rest the hopes for advancement in medicine; the future well-being of very many humans beings is affe
more » ... mans beings is affe cted, therefore, by presently imposed moral restraints upon experimentation. Experiments upon human subjects will not cease in any case. So long as there continue to be any advances in medical science, the re sults of research will be put to use on some human beings, somewhere, for the first time. Those will be experiments. The issue, therefore, is not whether we should permit such experiments --they will certainly continue so long as medicine is not frozen in its tracks --but what principles rightly guide such experiments, and what restraints are rightly placed upon them. My aim in. what follows is mainifold. I shall explain some of these principles and constraints, in some cases defending, in some cases merely explicating, and in some cases exhibiting the tension between competing alternative views. The terrain I explore is extensive and boggy ; I will achieve my principal purpose if I succeed in mapping its major fe atures, gWing a reasonably clear view of the whole, and identifying those sub.t.enitories needing further reflective attention.
pmid:11658450 fatcat:kvhztbw4ubd6lizhfjxznoljou