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Ethics & Human Research

Can the Research Team-Participant Relationship Ground Ancillary-Care Obligations?

ABSTRACT Discussion of medical researcher teams’ ancillary-care obligations has long been dominated by partial-en-trustment theory, developed in 2004 by the author of this article, in collaboration with Leah Belsky. Critics of the limited scope of the special ancillary-care obligations defended by that theory, however, argue that a better theory would take fuller account of the relationship that develops between individual research participants and members of the research team. Nate W. Olson and Thaddeus Metz have each put forward well worked-out versions of such a relationship-based account of ancillary-care obligations. This article critically evaluates these accounts, concluding that while each of them is vulnerable to various criticisms, each also crucially facilitates understanding of this relationship: Olson brings out well how research participants can find that role not just beneficial but also deeply meaningful, and Metz, drawing on African ethical traditions, emphasizes that when things go well, participants are involved as partners in the research effort. Yet the article closes by arguing that the partial-entrustment theory, surprisingly, can take on board each of these lessons. As so enhanced, it may actually be the best available relationship-based theory of this subject.

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