The Ethics of Clinical Research in the Third World by Marcia Angell

954 Words2 Pages
Third world countries and underdeveloped nations have become the new proverbial Petri dish of experimentation and offer particular conditions which researchers would never be able to find in their home countries. This only serves to highlight the problem that inherently faces all research studies, the ethical debate in regards to the protection and rights of their subjects. Is it feasible to expect the same standards to apply in certain countries where an economical imbalance between what is possible and what is not can be the largest hurdle to overcome? These are key issues examined in the New England Journal of Medicine by author Marcia Angell, M.D., and co-authors Harold Varmus, M.D. and David Satcher, M.D. in their respective articles that consider the ethical standards that should prevail in such circumstances. Should researchers be upheld to universal standards, or are the standards more applicable in a “local” sense, where the conditions and the constraints of the location provide the context for how the principles should be applied?
Ethical violations committed on underprivileged populations first surfaced close to 50 years ago with the discovery of the Tuskegee project. The location, a small rural town in Arkansas, and the population, consisting of black males with syphilis, would become a startling example of research gone wrong. The participants of the study were denied the available treatment in order further the goal of the research, a clear violation of the Belmont Report principle of beneficence. This same problem faces researchers today who looking for an intervention in the vertical transmission of HIV in Africa, as there is an effective protocol in industrialized nations, yet they chose to use a placebo-contro...

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...ide grounds for a debate. There is no true “what is good for the goose” or cover all principle when dealing with such diverse conditions as those found in our world. While the Belmont Principles should be at the core of all research studies, the context chosen may be able to provide some guidance into their applications. Either end of the scope offers its drawbacks, the median ground may be hard to achieve, but as long as the debate continues, studies on vulnerable populations will remain in focus and hopefully help to find the median ground.

Works Cited

Angell, Marcia. "The Ethics of Clinical Research in the Third World." New England Journal of Medicine. 337.12 847-849. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.

Varmus , Harold, and David Satcher. "Ethical Complexities of Conducting Research in Developing Countries." New England Journal of Medicine. 337.14 1003-1005. Web. 9 Feb. 2014.

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