The obligation to participate in biomedical research

JAMA. 2009 Jul 1;302(1):67-72. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.931.


The current prevailing view is that participation in biomedical research is above and beyond the call of duty. While some commentators have offered reasons against this, we propose a novel public goods argument for an obligation to participate in biomedical research. Biomedical knowledge is a public good, available to any individual even if that individual does not contribute to it. Participation in research is a critical way to support an important public good. Consequently, all have a duty to participate. The current social norm is that individuals participate only if they have a good reason to do so. The public goods argument implies that individuals should participate unless they have a good reason not to. Such a shift would be of great aid to the progress of biomedical research, eventually making society significantly healthier and longer lived.

MeSH terms

  • Bioethical Issues*
  • Biomedical Research / ethics
  • Biomedical Research / trends*
  • Humans
  • Moral Obligations*
  • Patient Participation* / psychology
  • Patient Participation* / trends
  • Research Subjects* / psychology