Cluster randomization and political philosophy

Bioethics. 2012 Nov;26(9):476-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2010.01874.x. Epub 2011 Feb 14.


In this paper, I will argue that, while the ethical issues raised by cluster randomization can be challenging, they are not new. My thesis divides neatly into two parts. In the first, easier part I argue that many of the ethical challenges posed by cluster randomized human subjects research are clearly present in other types of human subjects research, and so are not novel. In the second, more difficult part I discuss the thorniest ethical challenge for cluster randomized research--cases where consent is genuinely impractical to obtain. I argue that once again these cases require no new analytic insight; instead, we should look to political philosophy for guidance. In other words, the most serious ethical problem that arises in cluster randomized research also arises in political philosophy.

MeSH terms

  • Fluoridation / ethics
  • Human Experimentation / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Philosophy*
  • Politics*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / ethics*
  • Social Justice
  • Taxes
  • United States