chapter  7
RESEARCH BODIES: FEMINIST PERSPECTIVES ON CLINICAL RESEARCH
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My aim in this chapter is to demonstrate why the issue of clinical research is a particularly appropriate topic for feminist interrogation. I contend that women are doubly disadvantaged in medical research – there is bias against female researchers and females as research subjects.2 In essence, I argue that research offers a microcosm of how women are represented in health care law. Thus, although women represent a slight majority of the population, and the bulk of health care consumers,3 they are marginalised by clinical researchers, unless the research relates to reproduction.4 In other contexts, diseases which are exclusive to women are inadequately funded, while research into diseases affecting both sexes is overwhelmingly conducted on men, ignoring gender differences in responses to treatment, such as differential rates of absorption and excretion.5 Thus, just as law privileges the male – or at least the man of reason6 – as its subject, so the male is the subject of medical research. Symbolically, the use of the male body as reference for clinical judgments necessarily renders female hormonal cycles, menstruation and pregnancy exceptional rather than ordinary events, as well as providing the rationale for much reproductive research. Concerns about the injustice of women’s underrepresentation have spawned recent scholarship asserting the right of women to be included in clinical trials. In this essay I wish to sound a note of caution

regarding this somewhat uncritical acceptance of the benefits of clinical research. In particular, I argue that it may be ethically problematic for feminists to assert the right of women to participate as equals in trials, while ignoring the oppression of non-human animals in which much clinical research is grounded. Furthermore, in so doing they implicitly endorse traditional scientific models of medicine and the values inherent in such models, whereas I contend that women still have reason to be wary of the masculinist orientation of scientific ideology. One consequence of this orientation may be that, though the topic of clinical research requires feminist scrutiny, it may prove particularly resistant to such critique.