A history of injustices to diverse groups of human subjects in medical research has resulted in concerted efforts by U.S. policymakers in the second half of the twentieth century to provide greater protection for future subjects. However, in the context of patient populations demanding better therapies, potential medical advances, and greater attention to issues of social justice, Kahn, Mastroianni, and Sugarman set out to reconceptualize the principle of justice in human subjects research to address these urgent concerns. In Beyond Consent, Kahn and colleagues advance a framework of justice in terms of access to participation in research, instead of protection. Their worthy cause, developed out of collaboration on the White House Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, aims to demonstrate how previously unaddressed notions of justice now require greater consideration in research. Specifically, they emphasize how fairness requires a greater distribution of risks and benefits, and that “equals should be treated equally.” The volume does not report new research findings but rather draws on multidisciplinary approaches, including law, medicine, philosophy, history, and health policy, to argue that justice must go beyond informed consent. The editors posit that this challenge to protectionism is necessary given the heightened urgency for patients to benefit from investigational therapies although they incur increased risks.
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