The Aspects of Vulnerability Among the Exploited in Medical Research

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Essentially, everyone is in some state of vulnerability. However, some of us are more susceptible to harm due to our vulnerabilities. The susceptible are the individuals with the greatest risk. These individuals risk the loss of their autonomy, and maybe even their lives. Vulnerable populations can be found in every subset of society. However, as previously mentioned, there are some vulnerable populations that are at an even greater risk than others. Such populations may include; but are not limited to; sick individuals, the economically disadvantaged, women, children, and men from numerous disadvantaged backgrounds.

Vulnerable populations may at times be classified as the “them” in comparison to those who are less vulnerable (the “us”). This “us” versus “them” is an ideal that Bankoff makes clear in his article Vulnerability as a Western Discourse. The vulnerable populations that fall under the category of the “them” are the most vulnerable, the weak, and certainly the individuals that are exploited and dehumanized. Since the “us” are not as vulnerable they are the ones with the power, and privilege. In looking at this dichotomy, we can see how important it is to protect these seemingly subordinate vulnerable populations.

In medical research, there should be an extensive theoretical framework to guide the researcher to make ethical decisions. Due to the fact that vulnerable populations are preyed upon by researchers for means of medical research, and not necessarily for the benefit of the patient, bioethics has become a module that is to free the vulnerable individual from exploitation. It also, seeks to undertake one’s vulnerability while restoring autonomy as well.

Sick individuals are not only vulnerable merely because of ...

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...ncentives in a study can be known as a form of coercion.

When we realize that we are all a part of one human race, we can begin to define what equality looks like. Instead of trying to justify the exploitation of vulnerable populations, bioethics will seek to bring justice to the exploited and provide consequence for the unethical researcher. In recognizing the vulnerabilities of the exploited, we can conceptualize better ways to coordinate the ethical standards they should follow.

Works Cited

Flanigan, Rosemary. "Vulnerability and the Bioethics Movement." Bioethics Forum (n.d.): 13-16.

Klein, Joan Echtenkamp. Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study . 2009. 17 November 2011 .

Kottow and Michael H. The Vulnerable and The Susceptible. Article. Garsington Road: Blackwell Publishing , 2003.
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