Exploitation in the use of human subjects for medical experimentation: a re-examination of basic issues

Bioethics. 1995 Jul;9(3-4):259-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.1995.tb00360.x.


Relatively subtle forms of exploitation of human subjects may arise from the inefficiency or incompetence of a researcher, from the existence of a power imbalance between principal and subject, or from the uneven distribution of research risks among various segments of the population. A powerful and knowledgeable person (or institution) may perpetrate the exploitation of an unempowered and ignorant individual even without intending to. There is an ethical burden on the former to protect the interests of the vulnerable. Excessive or insufficient compensation may be exploitative. However, genuine economic imperatives motivating needy volunteers have to be considered. These forms of exploitation should be appreciated in the context of social and cultural factors suggesting that the relationship between researcher and subject cannot properly be appraised as a contractual undertaking. While compliance with pertinent codes and regulations minimises the exploitative potential, they cannot be enforced in a way that does not recognize a society's peculiar characteristics. The experience with some Filipino cultural traits illustrates this point.

MeSH terms

  • Coercion
  • Compensation and Redress
  • Deception
  • Developing Countries*
  • Disclosure
  • Economics
  • Fees and Charges
  • Human Experimentation*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Motivation
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Persons
  • Philippines
  • Professional Competence
  • Research Personnel
  • Research Subjects*
  • Researcher-Subject Relations*
  • Risk
  • Risk Assessment
  • Social Dominance*
  • Social Values
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Vulnerable Populations
  • Wounds and Injuries