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Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Moral and Legal Permissibility of Placebo-Controlled Trials

Mina Henaen
Princeton Journal of Bioethics
Princeton University
Originally posted August 15, 2016

Leaders of research ethics organizations have made placebo-controlled trials illegal whenever placebo groups would not receive currently existing treatment for their ailment, slowing down research for cheaper and more effective treatments. In this essay, I argue that placebo-controlled trials (PCTs) are both morally and legally permissible whenever they provide care that is better than the local standard of care. Contrary to what the anti-PCT often put forth, I argue that researchers conducting PCTs are not exploiting other developing nations, or subjects from these nations, when they conduct their research there. I then show how these researchers are also not especially legally required to provide treatment to their placebo-group subjects. I present some of the benefits of such research to the placebo groups as well and consider the moral impermissibility of making such research illegal.

The article is here.