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Special Communication
July 1, 2009

The Obligation to Participate in Biomedical Research

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Bioethics, The Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

JAMA. 2009;302(1):67-72. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.931
Abstract

The current prevailing view is that participation in biomedical research is above and beyond the call of duty. While some commentators have offered reasons against this, we propose a novel public goods argument for an obligation to participate in biomedical research. Biomedical knowledge is a public good, available to any individual even if that individual does not contribute to it. Participation in research is a critical way to support an important public good. Consequently, all have a duty to participate. The current social norm is that individuals participate only if they have a good reason to do so. The public goods argument implies that individuals should participate unless they have a good reason not to. Such a shift would be of great aid to the progress of biomedical research, eventually making society significantly healthier and longer lived.

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