Clinical trials: vulnerability and ethical relativism
Ensaios clínicos: vulnerabilidade e relativismo etico

Cristina Lima
2005 Acta Médica Portuguesa  
Research in human beings is an important chapter of medical ethics. In recent years, investigation has been taken over by profit driven corporations that must guarantee the medical and commercial application of results. This new model of investigation has generated conflicts of interest in doctor-patient, researcher-subject relationship. The inevitable debate and media reaction has led. These trials of controversial design to regions of the globe where the vulnerability of the populations
more » ... ues to allow their undertaking. This article includes a historical perspective on experimentation in human beings and the conditions that led to its regulation: the Nuremberg CODE, followed by the Helsinky Declaration in its different versions, and the Belmont Report, that defend the subject according to the ethic of principles used in western medicine. There is then a review of the attempts to change international regulation to reintroduce clinical trials with placebo--which since 1996 is only permitted where there are no therapeutic or diagnostic methods--on populations that would otherwise have no access to treatment. This then leads on to the issue of double standards in medical investigation defended by many investigators and some official entities. The article concludes that it may be prudent to allow local ethical commissions to approve deviation from the established norm if such is necessary to resolve urgent questions of health in the country, but it is unacceptable that any such emergency is used as a reason to reduce the ethical prerequisites, in clinical trials. It also concludes that true urgency is in making available to all who need it the effective products already in existence. Furthermore, that the acceptance of ethical relativism can result in the exploitation of vulnerable third world populations for research programmes that cannot be undertaken in their sponsoring countries due to the ethical restrictions in place.
pmid:16207458 fatcat:5t23dbd6tvhqrkctobychir5ca