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February 21, 1977

Experimental Subjects

Author Affiliations

St Joseph's College Philadelphia

JAMA. 1977;237(8):766. doi:10.1001/jama.1977.03270350026009

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To the Editor.—  In a recent issue of The Journal (235:2197,1976), a short essay by Richard McCormick, SJ, endorsed the removal of the ban on minimum-risk nontherapeutic research on the fetus in utero. McCormick also seems to advocate a governmental right to draft fitting adult subjects for minimum-risk nontherapeutic experimentation. The following comments focus on the first of these issues.McCormick tries to prove that both therapeutic and minimum-risk non-therapeutic experiments are within the range of things to which parents can consent by proxy for their offspring in utero. He argues that a person ought to choose "the good of life." This, presumably, entails that a person ought to choose to subject himself to those treatments that might help to preserve his life, eg, therapeutic experiments. Furthermore, if someone ought to choose something, then if he is incapable of choosing it himself, his proxies can legitimately choose it for him.