Volume 1, 2007
Jennifer S. Hawkins, Ezekiel J. Emanuel
Clarifying Confusions about Coercion
Commentators often claim that medical research subjects are coerced into participating in clinical studies. In recent years, such claims have appeared especially frequently in ethical discussions of research in developing countries. Medical research ethics is more important than ever as we move into the 21st century because worldwide the pharmaceutical industry has grown so much and shows no sign of slowing its growth. This means that more people are involved in medical research today than ever before, and in the future even more will be involved. However, despite the pressing need for reflection on research ethics, it is important to carefully identify the concerns we have about research. Otherwise we run the risk that the moral language we use, and which we hear other people use, may do our moral thinking for us. We argue that many recent claims about the occurrence of coercion in medical research are misguided and misuse the word "coercion." We try to identify the real problems, and urge people to attend carefully to the implications of their descriptions of moral problems in research.