Researchers using their children as test subjects
This is my site Written by Alex on January 18, 2009 – 3:30 pm   

A fascinating article, video, and reader comment board at the New York Times online is must-read material for anyone curious about clinical trials. Written by reporter Pam Belluck, the article, “Test Subjects Who Call the Scientist Mom or Dad,” examines the ethical implications and potential impact on children and clinical trials when parents use their own kids as test subjects in trials. Scientists are not hooking their infants up to electrodes and using them  as conveniently placed guinea pigs for their own amusement, but the practice raises disturbing questions nonetheless.


“[Researchers] say that their children are reliable subjects, and that they give them access that can allow them to do more in-depth studies,” Belluck says in a video accompanying the article. “Meanwhile, ethicists say that some of these projects are acceptable and even valuable. But they also say that they can raise questions about the impact on the child, on the relationship with the parent, and on the objectivity of the data being collected.”

Readers who wrote in on a comment board tended to be opposed to the concept of using one’s child as a research subject. They were particularly opposed to, as one scientist did, running MRIs on a child. Issues of informed consent, bias, long range physical and emotional effects and other issues were raised in the comments.

Whether you are opposed to the idea or in favor of a practice employed for years by prominent scientists such as Noam Chomsky, one thing is certain: It’s a riveting topic and an article you should definitely check out. 

Click here to read the article and access the video and reader board. (Registration for the NYT online is required, but the site is free.)

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