Should Researchers be Upheld to Universal Standards? Essay

Should Researchers be Upheld to Universal Standards? Essay

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Offering the rarest of human conditions, third world countries have become the new proverbial Petri dish of biological experimentation. Researchers working in remote locations with impoverished populations would never be able to find in their home countries, but this only serves to highlight the problem that inherently faces all research studies, the protection and rights of research subjects. The Belmont Principles were intended to provide ethical standards that apply universally to all research subject regardless of where they were located. But is it rational to use the same applications 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? Are the standards more applicable in a “local” sense, where the conditions and economical constraints provide the context for how the principles should be applied?
Ethical violations committed on vulnerable populations first surfaced close to 50 years ago with the discovery of the Tuskegee project. This small rural town in Arkansas, and the population, consisting of black males with syphilis, would become a startling example of research gone wrong. In order to fulfill the researcher's goals, the participants of the study were denied the available treatment, a clear violation of the Belmont Report principle of beneficence. The same problem faces researchers today studying a viable intervention in the...


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...guidelines should be followed. Without the consideration of all the factors facing a population, studies will fail to protect the subjects regardless of whether the principles were applied correctly.
All in all, the ethical debate into the application of the Belmont principles when the population is this vulnerable will always provide grounds for heated arguments. Universal principles are needed to ensure rights of research subjects when dealing with such diverse conditions as those found in our world. While Belmont 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.

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