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8_Ethical Variability - Petryna

8_Ethical Variability - Petryna - American Ethnologist n...

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decisions, surely they can stop inappropriate research from taking place. Much is also assumed about who is and is not the agent of abuse, most typically defined as the individual investigator him- or herself. What about instances in which risks present them- selves in a more structural form? These instances tend not to find proper nouns in ethical discussions, beyond designation as ‘‘interesting’’ or ‘‘scandalous’’ cases. The fact is that certain conditions have to be met for liability to work: States themselves need to act as protectors and not abusers; transnational corporations need to respect the rights and dignity of all research subjects and recognize that different situations elicit different kinds of coercion; and international ethics codes must be enforceable in cases of clear violation. None of this occurred, unfortunately, in the following instance—a 1996 case of industry-sponsored research in Nigeria for a drug manufactured by Pfizer, Inc., called Trovan, once one of the most widely prescribed antibiotics in the United States but later taken off the market because it was found to produce serious liver side effects. In an effort to gain FDA approval for a new use of Trovan—this time using pediatric victims of bacterial meningitis who were most likely treatment naı¨ve—a team of Pfizer researchers traveled to the city of Kano during a bacterial meningitis outbreak (which they found out about on the Internet) and civil unrest under the Abacha military dic- tatorship. Doctors without Borders was already distribut-
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