Paying people to participate in research: why not? A response to Wilkinson and Moore

Bioethics. 1997 Oct;11(5):390-6. doi: 10.1111/1467-8519.00079.


This paper argues against paying people to participate in research. Volunteering to participate as a subject in a research program is not like taking a job. The main difference is to do with the risks inherent in research. Experimentation on human beings is, by definition, trying out something with an unknown consequence and exposes people to risks of harm which cannot be known in advance. This is the main reason for independent review by committee of research programs. It is based on a recognition that researchers are not always capable of putting the interests of their subjects ahead of their research objectives. It is not simply a matter of individual autonomy. Society has an obligation, prior to the protection of individual freedom and autonomy, to establish basic safeguards that are equitable in their operation. Any inducement for participating in research would add to the difficulty subjects have in adequately assessing the risks of participating in research. An acceptance of inducement to participate in research would further increase the inequity of research conducted on the impecunious for the benefit of the well-off.

MeSH terms

  • Drugs, Investigational
  • Fees and Charges*
  • Freedom
  • Human Experimentation*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent
  • Motivation*
  • Nontherapeutic Human Experimentation
  • Paternalism
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Research Subjects*
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Risk*
  • Social Justice
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Volunteers*
  • Vulnerable Populations


  • Drugs, Investigational