Crowdsourcing Public Health Experiments: A Response to Jonathan Darrow's Crowdsourcing Clinical Trials

21 Pages Posted: 26 May 2014 Last revised: 27 May 2014

See all articles by Ameet Sarpatwari

Ameet Sarpatwari

Harvard Medical School; Brigham and Women's Hospital

Christopher T. Robertson

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law; Harvard University - Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics

David V. Yokum

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law; University of Arizona - College of Science

Keith A. Joiner

University of Arizona - College of Medicine

Date Written: May 23, 2014

Abstract

We are pleased to have this opportunity to respond to Jonathan Darrow’s article, Crowdsourcing Clinical Trials (CCT). We seek to highlight its important contributions and to commence debate over some of its arguments. In particular, we qualify the ethical arguments that characterize early clinical use of drugs as if they were research, and suggest instead that, in either domain, the ethical (and legal) analysis should remain focused on whether all material information is provided so patients may make informed decisions. We also highlight the limits of what can be gleaned from the observational data collection efforts envisioned by CCT.

Ultimately, we exploit the core insights of CCT to expand the potential use of crowdsourcing from observational studies to truly randomized interventional trials. Randomized experiments allow causal inference because they assign subjects to a treatment and control group, and collect data from each. Furthermore, we draw attention to the fact that much of public health is driven not by pharmaceuticals, but by lifestyle factors. We suggest that CCT’s envisioned platform for crowdsourcing also has great potential to engage the public in producing new and trustworthy knowledge in the domains of diet, exercise, nutritional supplements, and integrative medicine, which are primary drivers of health outcomes and spending.

Keywords: crowdsourcing, clinical trials, CCT, ethics, informed consent, observational studies, public health

Suggested Citation

Sarpatwari, Ameet and Robertson, Christopher T. and Yokum, David V. and Joiner, Keith A., Crowdsourcing Public Health Experiments: A Response to Jonathan Darrow's Crowdsourcing Clinical Trials (May 23, 2014). 98 Minnesota Law Review 2326 (2014); Arizona Legal Studies Discussion Paper No. 14-14. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2441557

Ameet Sarpatwari

Harvard Medical School ( email )

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Brigham and Women's Hospital ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States

Christopher T. Robertson (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.arizona.edu/faculty/getprofile.cfm?facultyid=714

Harvard University - Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics ( email )

23 Everett Street
Cambridge, MA 02155
United States

David V. Yokum

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States

University of Arizona - College of Science ( email )

1040 E. Fourth Street
Tucson, AZ 85721-0077
United States

Keith A. Joiner

University of Arizona - College of Medicine ( email )

Department of History
Tucson, AZ 85721
United States

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