October 18, 1976

Experimental Subjects

Author Affiliations

University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh

JAMA. 1976;236(16):1844. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270170010007

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To the Editor.—  Father McCormick's suggestion (235:2197, 1976) that "it would not be unjust of the government to recruit experimental subjects [for minimal risks experimentation], for example, by lottery, just as it is not unjust for government to draft soldiers for national self-defense" may be logical, but is unsound as a matter of policy.We are willing to tolerate, at least as a matter of constitutional law, involuntary recruitment of soldiers, because the very existence of the State is at stake. We are also willing to tolerate infringements on what would otherwise be constitutionally protected rights when similar exigent conditions pertain. For example, while we do not prohibit free speech generally, we may restrict it when there is a clear and present danger that it will bring about the overthrow of the government.Hardly the same can be said of medical research. Without voluntary subjects, some research may just not