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Education And Debate

A case for goodwill

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 22 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:890
  1. G R McLean, senior lecturera
  1. a Department of Philosophy, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.


    Professor Cleaton-Jones nicely sets out the difficulty facing research ethics committees. It seems quite obvious that drug companies should be asked to guarantee the ongoing supply of the full regimen of drugs used in a clinical trial for just so long as those drugs are proving to be of benefit to the particular subjects. But what if a drug company refuses and guarantees the supply only for the period of the trial? Should the ethics committee accept these terms, or should it make the ongoing supply a non-negotiable condition of approval of the trial?

    If drug companies were inanimate objects, committed by impersonal forces to unalterable courses of behaviour, then there would be no real ethical difficulty. We would then simply face the facts of life and accept the less than desirable terms of the trial, hoping for …

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