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Viewing Research Participation as a Moral Obligation: In Whose Interests? Recasting research participation in this way would have global ramifications.

Over the past few years, a growing number of people have called for reconceptualizing participation in health research as a moral obligation. But conceiving research participation as morally obligatory conflicts with the commonly held view that agreeing to join a research study is morally praiseworthy, recommended, or supererogatory. The idea that research participation is valuable but not obligatory is expressed (implicitly or explicitly) in many influential research ethics guidelines and regulations, embodied in current research practices, and defended in influential discussions about the ethics of research involving human subjects. Recasting research participation as obligatory is therefore not a minor philosophical quibble about the moral status of an action. Viewing research participation in this way would constitute an ethical paradigm shift with global ramifications, analogous to other efforts to promote particular religious or secular moral views around the world.

Over the past few years, a growing number of people have called for reconceptualizing participation in health research as a moral obligation. But conceiving research participation as morally obligatory conflicts with the commonly held view that agreeing to join a research study is morally praiseworthy, recommended, or supererogatory. The idea that research participation is valuable but not obligatory is expressed (implicitly or explicitly) in many influential research ethics guidelines and regulations, embodied in current research practices, and defended in influential discussions about the ethics of research involving human subjects. Recasting research participation as obligatory is therefore not a minor philosophical quibble about the moral status of an action. Viewing research participation in this way would constitute an ethical paradigm shift with global ramifications, analogous to other efforts to promote particular religious or secular moral views around the world.

Stuart Rennie, "Viewing Research Participation as a Moral Obligation," Hastings Center Report 41, no. 2 (2011): 40-47.