Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Ethicist Sees Decline in Human Research Protections

WebMD Health News

Nov. 24, 1999 (Washington) -- While the protection of individuals involved in medical experiments should be paramount, the reality is that crucial safeguards are being undermined, often in the name of science. That's the view of a "Special Communication" published in the Nov. 25 issue of JAMA.

"Current trends in research and research regulation continue to erode the requirement of consent," writes Beverly Woodward, PhD, a medical ethicist at Brandeis University, in the article. As an example, Woodward notes with alarm a recent recommendation from the National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) to allow permission for individuals with "impaired decision-making capacity" to take part in research of greater than "minimal risk" that might not help the individual, as long as the trial benefits the population under study.

Woodward says a huge increase in available money combined with computers and a variety of new research tools to process information all contribute to the weakening of patient protections. "The tendency now to use patient records, patient specimens, imaging ? all these materials appear to be grist for the research mill," Woodward tells WebMD. She argues that researchers now routinely say the interests of science put the burden of proof on those who stand in the way of progress.

Woodward insists it's becoming easier to sell the argument to standard-setting institutional review boards (IRBs) that it's too difficult to get informed consent for a large-scale trial. That can lead to revelations about a patient's most guarded medical secrets. "If somebody wants to deal with DNA analysis on your blood sample, and an IRB agrees that it's minimal risk, they can go ahead and do it, but you might not think it's minimal risk," she says.

According to Woodward, the recent series that appeared in the New York Times documenting how physicians were secretly paid "bounties" to recruit patients into drug trials is an example of how the system can be turned on its head. "If everybody ? can be ? put under a microscope ? by this research process, it means everybody, in a way, becomes a research object," says Woodward. She also says patient deaths in gene therapy experiments bring into question whether those involved understood the risks.

1 | 2 | 3

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing