October 18, 1976

Experimental Subjects-Reply

Author Affiliations

Georgetown University Center for Bioethics Washington, DC

JAMA. 1976;236(16):1844. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03270170010008

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I agree with the point made by Dr Meisel when he states "with the rare exception of some deadly epidemic." That is what I had in mind when I wrote: "If, however, not enough volunteers are available for minimal risk experimentation and the research seems of overriding importance to the public health, it would not be unjust of the government to recruit experimental subjects." In other words, I was not proposing a "matter of policy," if by that term one means an ordinary, everyday way of proceeding. I was rather making an ethical point about our duties to the commonweal. Rare as they might be, circumstances could arise in which lottery recruitment of involuntary subjects would not be "unsound as a matter of policy." That is all my commentary stated.