Distributive justice and clinical trials in the Third World

Theor Med Bioeth. 2001 Jun;22(3):151-67. doi: 10.1023/a:1011452716028.


One of the arguments against conducting human subject trials in the Third World adopts a distributive justice principle found in a commentary of the CIOM'S Eighth Guideline for international research on human subjects. Critics argue that non-participant members of the community in which the trials are conducted are exploited because sponsoring agencies do not ensure that the products developed have been made reasonably available to these individuals. I argue that the distributive principle's wording is too vague and ambiguous to be used to criticize any trial. Furthermore, the mere fact that an experiment does not fulfill this particular distributive justice principle does not entail that it is unethical.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Developing Countries*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Human Experimentation*
  • Humans
  • Social Justice*