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Full Access Globalizing Research Ethics: Justice & Biomedical Research in Developing Countries

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Globalizing Research Ethics: Justice & Biomedical Research in Developing Countries

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image of Perspectives on Global Development and Technology
For more content, please see Journal of Developing Societies.

AbstractA variety of factors are pushing biomedical research (e.g. pharmaceutical drug trials) to be increasingly performed in developing countries by foreign sponsors from wealthier nations. However, research takes on unique ethical dimensions when studies are performed in developing countries. Factors like poverty, imbalance of power, and cultural difference between sponsors/researchers and participants combine to increase possibilities for research abuses. Biomedical research in developing countries must therefore be given informed ethical analysis to ensure that research may be performed without exploiting developing nations. In this article I argue that an ethical framework for research in developing countries should be formulated through the adoption of four important conceptual changes: i) accounting for the vulnerability of subjects, ii) acknowledging contextual factors including social structures, culture, and political climate, iii) challenging ‘reasonable availability’ and other narrow concepts of benefit to research subjects, and iv) forging and utilizing lasting relationships with institutions already established in developing nations.

Affiliations: 1: Michigan State University, Email:


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1. Eckenwiler L. Tong R. , Anderson G. , Santos A. "“Realizing justice in health research for women: Reflections on democratizing decisionmaking.”" Globalizing feminist bioethics 2001 Boulder, CO Westview Press
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