Delusional Trials
This is my site Written by Alex on February 13, 2009 – 11:23 am   

An unintended and potentially damaging impact of today’s economic woes involve clinical trials. More and more people who have lost their jobs and their health insurance are enrolling in trials to receive medical care.

How do I know this? I subscribe to a free weekly news alert through Google that flags and sends stories about clinical trials to my e-mail. (If you’re interested in clinical trials, or in anything from East Aleutian boxing to dandelion sculpture, I suggest you go to Google and sign up for an alert. It’s extremely cool.) In previous weeks there were a few stories mentioning that people are turning to trials as a treatment option. The stories piqued my interest because two years ago I interviewed a bioethicist named Paul Appelbaum who coined the term “therapeutic misconception” to describe how subjects and researchers have come to consider clinical trials a valid medical treatment option. It’s a misconception because clinical trials are not┬átreatment. They are research. It looked to me that the economic downturn was putting therapeutic misconception on the fast track to being regarded as the absolute truth.

Then, this week two stories came across my Google alert that went a long way to confirming my suspicions. The first is a story from the NBC station in Dallas-Fort Worth Texas that flat out says, “Clinical Trials Provide Options for Financially Strapped Patients.” The other is a story about how the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha recently opened an office to assist people who are increasingly coming to the university to enroll in clinical trials. The reason more people are showing interest in becoming subjects, the story says, is because unemployment is at a 15-year high.

Allowing medical research to become even more entwined with being regarded as treatment is bad for subjects, bad for patients, bad for medicine, and, ultimately disastrous for medical research. Keep your eye out to see if the trend grows.

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