To Enroll or Not to Enroll?: A Researcher Struggles with the Decision to Involve Study Participants in a Clinical Trial That Could Save Their Lives
- Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 2017
- pp. 71-77
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Hundreds of thousands of clinical trials are conducted annually around the world, working to further scientific knowledge and expand medical treatment. At the same time, clinical trials also present novel challenges to researchers who have access to large pools of research participants and are routinely approached by pharmaceutical companies seeking to recruit subjects for clinical trials. This case study discusses the ethical dilemmas faced by a community health investigator who received an invitation to enroll people who inject drugs (PWID) into a clinical trial of a drug that promised a new treatment option for Hepatitis C. The author elaborates on the ethical tensions that he confronted between “doing good” and “avoiding harm. The paper suggests that issues of distributive justice should also be considered, particularly when the drugs being tested might eventually command prices that place them out of reach of the population enrolled in the trial. This case does not attempt to provide an ethical road map to assist researchers in similar circumstances, but rather to illustrate some of the considerations involved in making a decision about whether or not to participate in clinical trials research.