Benefits to research subjects in international trials: do they reduce exploitation or increase undue inducement?

Dev World Bioeth. 2008 Dec;8(3):178-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-8847.2006.00175.x.


There is an alleged tension between undue inducement and exploitation in research trials. This paper considers claims that increasing the benefits to research subjects enrolled in international, externally-sponsored clinical trials should be avoided on the grounds that it may result in the undue inducement of research subjects. It proceeds from the premise that there are good grounds for thinking that, at least some, international research sponsors exploit trial participants because they do not provide the research population with a fair share of the benefits of research. This provides a prima facie argument for increasing the benefits for research participants. Concern over undue inducement is a legitimate moral concern; however, if this concern is to prevent research populations from receiving their fair share of benefits from research there must be sufficient evidence that these benefits will unduly influence patients' decision-making regarding trial participation. This article contributes to the debate about exploitation versus undue inducement by introducing an analysis of the available empirical research into research participants' motivations and the influence of payments on research subjects' behaviour and risk assessment. Admittedly, the available research in this field is limited, but the research that has been conducted suggests that financial rewards do not distort research subjects' behaviour or blind them to the risks involved with research. Therefore, I conclude that research sponsors should prioritize the prevention of exploitation in international research by providing greater benefits to research participants.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / ethics*
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Developing Countries*
  • Ethics Committees, Research
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Internationality*
  • Patient Selection / ethics*
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Social Justice* / ethics
  • Vulnerable Populations*