Experimentation with Human Beings- Light or Only Shadows- - Yale Journal of Health Policy Law and Ethics Volume 6 Issue 2 Yale Journal of Health Policy

Experimentation with Human Beings- Light or Only Shadows- -...

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Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics Volume 6 Issue 2 Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics Article 8 3-2-2013 Experimentation with Human Beings: Light or Only Shadows? Alexander M. Capron Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Ethics and Professional Responsibility Commons , and the Health Law Commons This Article is brought to you for free and open access by Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository. It has been accepted for inclusion in Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics by an authorized administrator of Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository. For more information, please contact [email protected] . Recommended Citation Capron, Alexander M. (2006) "Experimentation with Human Beings: Light or Only Shadows?," Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics : Vol. 6: Iss. 2, Article 8. Available at:
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Experimentation with Human Beings: Light or Only Shadows? Alexander M. Capron, LL.B.* We have failed Jay Katz. Like the man looking under the lamp-post for his keys-not because that was where he was standing when he dropped them but because the light is better there-we have labored too long in the light and poked too infrequently into the shadows where the often painful truth is to be found. We have treated as exact the imprecise process of balancing research risks and benefits. We have exalted autonomy and made a sacrament of consent forms- even those that run to hellish lengths, littered with jargon-and forgotten the myriad constraints on subjects' choices. We have realized that, however well- intentioned researchers may be, their individual judgment of when and how to conduct research is usually very partial, in both senses of that word. Yet, from that realization we have moved to the contradictory conclusion that by instituting prior review by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), we have solved the ethical problems involved in deciding when and how to conduct research. Above all, we have developed elaborate rules and processes to normalize human experimentation, to treat it as an ordinary activity. We have thus avoided looking clearly at the moral dilemma that lies at the heart of every research encounter: "We are asking you to do this not for yourself but for others, even though we know that the role of human subject entails real and sometimes unforeseen risks including death." Such a statement is significant not because- or not solely because-it clearly describes the potential harm. I agree with Jay that this is not the critical issue,' though it is hardly one that we can ignore, in * Director, Department of Ethics, Trade, Human Rights and Health Law, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the World Health Organization.
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  • Spring '13
  • HAK
  • The Bible, The Land, human beings, Informed consent, Human subject research, Human experimentation in the United States, Yale Law School

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