In the name of research : Essays on the ethical treatment of human research subjects

Sammanfattning: Essay 1: Traffic research shares a fundamental dilemma with other areas of empirical research in which humans are potentially put at risk. Research is justified because it can improve safety in the long run. Nevertheless, people can be harmed in the research situation. Hence, we need to balance short-term risks against long-term safety improvements, much as in other areas of research with human subjects. In this paper we focus on ethical issues that arise when human beings are directly affected in the performance of research by examining how the ethical requirements in biomedical research can inform traffic research. After introducing the basic ethical requirements on biomedical research, each of the major requirements is discussed in relation to traffic research. We identify the main areas where biomedical research and traffic research differ, and where the ethical requirements from the former cannot easily be transferred to the latter. We then point to some of the issues that need to be addressed for a systematic approach to the ethics of traffic research.Essay 2: The requirement of always obtaining participants’ informed consent in research with human subjects cannot always be met, for a variety of reasons. In this paper, research situations where informed consent is unobtainable are described and categorised. Some of these kinds of situations, common in biomedicine and psychology, have been previously much discussed, whereas others, more prevalent in for example infrastructure research, introduce new perspectives. The advancement of new technology may lead to an increase in research of these kinds. The paper also provides a review of methods intended to compensate for a lack of consent and their applicability and usefulness for the different categories of situations are discussed, thereby providing insights into one important aspect of relevance for the question of permitting research without informed consent: how well that which informed consent is meant to safeguard can be achieved by other means.Essay 3: This paper starts with the assumption that it is morally problematic when people in need are offered money in exchange for research participation if the amount offered is unfair. Such offers are called “coercive”, and the degree of coerciveness is said to be determined by the offer’s potential to cause exploitation and its irresistibility. Depending on what view we take on the possibility to compensate for the sacrifices made by research participants, a wish to avoid “coercive offers” leads to policy recommendations concerning payment for participation. For sacrifices considered compensable we ought to offer either no payment or payment at a level deemed fair, while for sacrifices deemed incompensable we always ought to offer no payment.Essay 4: It is commonly thought that transactions that are the result of voluntary gift-giving do not constitute exploitation. This paper argues that exploitation is indeed possible in such situations, by showing how gift-giving can fulfil the two commonly proposed criteria for exploitation, namely that in an interaction between two persons one receives disproportionally little and the other disproportionally much of the resulting benefits, and that this disproportion is caused by the latter making inappropriate use of a disadvantage of the former. A theoretical approach to what such inappropriate use would amount to in cases of gift-giving is lacking. The paper therefore aims at spelling out such an approach. The method of reflective equilibrium inspires this endeavour, which proceeds by testing intuitions about examples that embody a set of possible conditions. It is concluded that three of the conditions are necessary for exploitation of gift-giving, namely (1) the giver incurs a loss, (2) the recipient has aimed for the gift, and (3) the gift is undeserved.