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Research Involving the Vulnerable Sick
Accountability in Research (1999)
  • Charles Weijer, Dalhousie University

Research involving the vulnerable sick raises difficult challenges for investigators and Institutional Review Boards. Exactly who among the ill counts as vulnerable is a matter of judgement, and involves consideration of susceptibility to harm and capacity to provide free and informed consent. A balanced approach is required when protections are considered, and the benefits as well as the risks of research participation must be carefully weighed. A variety of protections for the vulnerable sick in research are available, including enrolling subjects in a study only with a strong justification, ensuring that consent is free and comprehending, and setting limits on the risk to which they may be asked to endure. Discussion of three contemporary controversies, placebo-controlled trials in the psychiatric setting, phase I clinical trials and oncology patients, and emergency room research involving patients incapable of giving consent, highlights the little recognized prominence of risk-benefit issues in the clinical studies in the vulnerable sick.

  • Disclosure,
  • Emergency Medical Services,
  • Informed Consent,
  • Patient Selection,
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations,
  • Placebos,
  • Research Design,
  • Research Subjects,
  • Risk Assessment,
  • Human Experimentation
Publication Date
October, 1999
Publisher Statement
Dr. Charles Weijer is currently a faculty member at The University of Western Ontario.
Citation Information
Charles Weijer. "Research Involving the Vulnerable Sick" Accountability in Research Vol. 7 Iss. 1 (1999)
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