KIE Scholar argues for ancillary-care duties of medical researchers

Senior Research Scholar Henry Richardson recently contributed to a volume edited by bioethicists S. Matthew Liao and Colin O’Neil, titled Current Controversies in Bioethics (NY: Routledge, 2017).

The book is selective in addressing only five issues, each drawn from a different area of bioethics and discussed in a pair of contrasting essays. According to the publisher, the issues are not only of great practical importance but also demand engagement with matters of moral theory and require advanced understanding of relevant empirical material.

Richardson’s contribution belongs to the first controversy dealt with in the collection, which is entitled “Research Ethics: How Should We Justify Ancillary-Care Duties?”

Richardson’s essay, “Locating Medical Researchers’ Ancillary-Care Obligations within the Division of Moral Labor,” opens the pair on the topic. Richardson investigates the many cases in which researchers found ways to provide their study participants ancillary care—care that they needed, but that was required neither to successfully answer the scientific question nor to avoid or mitigate harm resulting from participation in the research—and the ways in which guidance on medical researchers’ ancillary-care obligations is lacking.

See a summary of the paper’s proposed framework below, which focuses on the urgent context of ancillary-care needs in the developing world:

Summary Points

  • Medical researchers, particularly those working in developing countries, as well as their sponsors, have some ancillary-care obligations.
  • Ancillary-care obligations are positive obligations to provide care that participants need but that is required neither to successfully answer the researchers’ scientific question nor to avoid or mitigate harm resulting from participation in the research.
  • The ancillary-care obligations of such researchers and their sponsors are not limited to addressing the disease or condition that is the target of the research, nor do they center on that disease or condition.
  • Existing guidelines for research do not adequately address ancillary-care obligations.
  • Consideration of the “four P’s” (positive obligation, planning, partnership, and practical steps: Box 1) and of “three questions” (of needs, alternatives, and the strength of obligation: Box 2) will help to address and direct the development of useful guidance.
  • Read the full essay »