Review of Legal Instruments and Codes on Medical Experimentation with Children
Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 560-73, 1994
13 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2008
Medical research with children has been the subject of ongoing debate. The reason for controversy is clear. As with research on adults, one must strike a balance between two goals - promoting the health of children through advances in scientific knowledge and protecting child research subjects from exploitation and harm. However, because of their age and relative immaturity, children cannot protect their own interests as well as adult subjects can. Yet as they progress toward adulthood, increasing care must be taken to involve children in decisions that affect them, even to the extent of allowing them to make choices that may have serious and long-term consequences.
This unique convergence of concerns has led many governments and professional organizations to develop legal or administrative instruments that treat pediatric research differently from research with adult subjects. The distinction may be examined with respect to four specific criteria: 1) when is it permissible to conduct pediatric research, 2) who decides whether a particular child can be a research subject, 3) what kinds of research can be conducted, and 4) the composition of committees that evaluate research protocols from an ethical standpoint. The purpose of this paper is to review an extensive array of legal instruments and codes to examine how they deal with these central issues.
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