Paternalism and fairness in clinical research

Bioethics. 2009 Mar;23(3):172-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2008.00651.x. Epub 2008 Apr 24.


In this paper, we defend the ethics of clinical research against the charge of paternalism. We do so not by denying that the ethics of clinical research is paternalistic, but rather by defending the legitimacy of paternalism in this context. Our aim is not to defend any particular set of paternalistic restrictions, but rather to make a general case for the permissibility of paternalistic restrictions in this context. Specifically, we argue that there is no basic liberty-right to participate in clinical research and that considerations of distributive fairness justify some paternalistic protections of research subjects.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Paternalism / ethics*
  • Research Subjects*