chapter  1
12 Pages

Investigating the Ethics and Economics of Medical Experimentation

WithAnn H. Kelly, P. Wenzel Geissler

What is the value of medical research? This question initially provokes an ethical response: the worth of a clinical trial is generally understood in terms of the impact of its outcomes on patient populations. The evaluation of human subjects research raises normative questions of values – the future well-being of society in relation to the risk experimental procedures entail for participants. However, biomedical facts also circulate within national systems of health care, global policy organizations, property regimes and pharmaceutical markets. The current dominance of public-private partnerships under the rubric of ‘global health’, the uptake of pro-market strategies by governmental and philanthropic organizations, the bankrolling of the World Health Organization (WHO) by private individuals, suggest the extent to which the value of both therapeutic products and public health practices can be appropriated by a logic of profit. Clinical trials engage with and generate multiple orders of value; they straddle the world of commodities and public goods, of fiscal costs and moral virtues (Stark 2009).