On the grounds that rape is an act of violence, not a natural act of intercourse, Roman Catholic teaching traditionally has permitted women who have been raped to take steps to prevent pregnancy, while consistently prohibiting abortion even in the case of rape. Recent scientific evidence that emergency contraception (EC) works primarily by preventing ovulation, not by preventing implantation or by aborting implanted embryos, has led Church authorities to permit the use of EC drugs in the setting of rape. Doubts about whether an abortifacient effect of EC drugs has been completely disproven have led to controversy within the Church about whether it is sufficient to determine that a woman is not pregnant before using EC drugs or whether one must establish that she has not recently ovulated. This article presents clinical, epidemiological, and ethical arguments why testing for pregnancy should be morally sufficient for a faith community that is strongly opposed to abortion.
The member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) decided in 2002 that ethics is one of the five priority areas of the organization. This article describes three categories of past and current activities in the ethics of science and technology, in particular bioethics. The first category is the global standard setting with the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights as the most recently adopted normative instrument. The second category focuses on capacity building in order to enable member states to apply the provisions of the declarations, through, for example, the establishment of national bioethics committees, the introduction of ethics teaching programs, and drafting of legislation and guidelines. The final category of activities is awareness raising through publications, events, and conferences. The challenges and difficulties UNESCO may face in its various activities are highlighted.
The "therapeutic misconception," described by Paul Appelbaum and colleagues more than 20 years ago, refers to the tendency of participants in clinical trials to confuse the design and conduct of research with personalized medical care. Although the "therapeutic misconception" has become a term of art in research ethics, little systematic attention has been devoted to the ethical significance of this phenomenon. This article examines critically the way in which Appelbaum and colleagues formulate what is at stake in the therapeutic misconception, paying particular attention to assumptions and implications that clinical trial participation disadvantages research participants as compared with receiving standard medical care. After clarifying the ethical significance of the therapeutic misconception with respect to the decision making of patients, we offer policy recommendations for obtaining informed consent to participation in clinical trials.
Responding to the paper by Miller and Joffe, we review the development of the concept of therapeutic misconception (TM). Our concerns about TM's impact on informed consent do not derive from the belief that research subjects have poorer outcomes than persons receiving ordinary clinical care. Rather, we believe that subjects with TM cannot give an adequate informed consent to research participation, which harms their dignitary interests and their abilities to make meaningful decisions. Ironically, Miller and Joffe's approach ends up largely embracing the very position that they inaccurately attribute to us: the belief that, with some exceptions, it is only the prospect of poorer outcomes that should motivate efforts to dispel TM. In the absence of empirical studies on the steps required to dispel TM and the impact of such procedures on subject recruitment, it is premature to surrender to the belief that TM must be widely tolerated in clinical research.