Biology Reference
In-Depth Information
to it. If nobody allowed their blood to be sampled for the latest strain of viruses,
progress in the development of vaccines would be significantly hampered. People
usually contribute to scientific research as altruists - that is, by acting for the ben-
efit and in the interests of others (Scott and Seglow 2007 , p. 1) - and do not expect
any specific rewards in the form of benefit sharing. This is particularly the case
for research which involves minimal risk and requires large numbers of partici-
pants, such as genetic research (Williams and Schroeder 2004 ). It has also been
suggested that we have a duty of solidarity with others when it comes to health
(Knoppers 2000 ), a 'duty to facilitate research progress and to provide knowledge
that could be crucial to the health of others' (Berg and Chadwick 2001 ).
However, the potential exploitation of research participants in developing coun-
tries has cast doubt on the altruism and the solidarity model in scientific research
(Schroeder and Lasen-Diaz 2006 ). John le Carré's 2001 novel The Constant
Gardener (made into a film in 2005) held researchers responsible for the exploita-
tion of naive research participants. In an article entitled 'A lot of very greedy peo-
ple', Le Carré wrote:
I had not been exploring Big Pharma for more than a couple of days before I was hear-
ing of the frantic recruitment of third world 'volunteers' as cheap guinea pigs. Their role,
though they may not ever know this, is to test drugs, not yet approved for testing in the
US, which they themselves will never be able to afford even if the tests turn out reason-
ably safe (Le Carré 2001 ).
This picture shows a particularly ugly face of scientific research, which has
been revealed in, for instance, the Trovan meningitis study in Nigeria (Macklin
2004 , p. 99f), the proposed Surfaxin study in Latin America (Macklin 2004 ,
p. 17f), and the child autopsy case in Malawi (Lemmens and Nwabueze 2007 ;
Mfutso-Bengu and Taylor 2002 ). However, even if clinical trials in a developing
country are carried out exactly as they would be in an affluent Northern country,
a sense of exploitation can linger in poor settings. 'I have been used like a guinea
pig, so how does he just leave me without compensation?' (Shaffer et al. 2006 , p.
55) is how a Kenyan research participant reacted to the departure of doctors at the
end of a research study.
The difference between showing altruism in scientific research in a developed
country and doing so in a developing country is highly significant, as the following
shows. The benefits of scientific research are various. For most citizens in affluent
countries scientific research leads to
1. Ever increasing numbers of medical interventions to achieve and maintain
health tailored to local health needs and, in principle, accessible to all.
2. Increased knowledge about human health made available to citizens through
general education or health campaigns.
3. The availability of jobs in a high-tech industry (pharmaceutical research) and
various related sectors (e.g. academia), and indirectly the very infrastructure
and institutions that make such jobs possible.
4. Profits for commercially oriented research companies and the pharmaceutical pro-
duction and retail industry (Schroeder 2008 ; Schroeder and Gefenas 2011 , p. 4).
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