One of the main questions discussed by scholars is related to the ethical and safety standards established for clinical trials. The main task is to ensure the safety of patients and obtain scientifically rigorous findings. In some cases, these priorities cannot be easily reconciled.
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This paper is aimed at discussing two articles written by Marcia Angell and Harold Varmus. These authors present different interpretations of ethical norms related to medical research.
Marcia Angell believes that the clinical trials performed in the countries of the Third World do not comply with international standards of care, and the wellbeing of patients can be imperiled. In particular, they are not always provided with the most effective treatment.
This is the main ethical problem that this scholar identifies. For example, the participants of such studies can sometimes receive a placebo instead of the best possible drug available at the time.
Researchers may prefer such an approach because it can help them obtain findings within a relatively short time. However, in this way, they can endanger the health of subjects. This is why many studies conducted in poor regions of the world, may not be allowed in advanced counties.
Additionally, Marcia Angell speaks about the so-called ethical relativism. This means that medical researchers accept local standards of care accepted in developing counties, and sometimes, these standards are low. In this way, they can deny patients the highest standards of care.
In other words, this author emphasizes the importance of universal ethical standards that should be applied to clinical trials. Moreover, the safety of the participants should be the top priority for medical workers.
Therefore, patients should receive the same level of protection, regardless of the country in which the trial is conducted. This is the main argument that Marcia Angell puts forward.
In turn, Harold Varmus offers a slightly different discussion of these questions. In particular, he notes that a clinical study should determine the positive and negative effects of a certain drug, while a placebo-control research might be the optimal way to do it.
This is one of the main claims that this scholar puts forward. Apart from that, these trials are usually carried out in countries with significant health problems such as right rates of HIV. Therefore, these studies, even if they are placebo-controlled, can benefit a great number of patients.
Certainly, this author admits that the rights of participants should be respected by researchers. For example, they people should know about the risks related to the trial. Nevertheless, at the same time, it is necessary to produce rigorous results which can be used by medical workers.
This is one of the main responsibilities that a researcher has. Harold Varmus emphasizes the importance of informed consent which can justify a placebo-control study from an ethical viewpoint. In other words, he accepts a certain degree of risk.
Overall, these examples suggest that scholars may not always provide the same ethical assessment of clinical trials carried out in the countries of the Third World. In some cases, scholars can focus on the wellbeing of patients as the main priority for medical workers.
In turn, other researchers can attach more importance to the validity of the study and the accuracy of results.
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For instance, Harold Varmus admits the importance of eliminating the risks to the health of subjects, but he also notes that a placebo-control trial can be the only option available to researchers. This is the main difference that can be identified.