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Reviews Personal views

My life as a guinea pig

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 23 March 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:735
  1. Kate Mandeville, final year medical student (
  1. Imperial College London

    Last week six young men taking part in a phase I trial in London became severely ill after being given a new drug. At least one of the volunteers who ended up in the intensive care unit at Northwick Park Hospital was using the money to pay off debts, press reports said. People in need of extra cash see medical trials as easy money. Medical students, with six years in which to build up debt, find the prospect of a large lump sum alluring. We are also considered excellent trial participants: we are young and healthy, in one place for a long time, and are not scared of hospital environments. Studies are usually advertised on hospital notice boards. They are also advertised in newspapers, with lines such as “make money in comfortable surroundings.” After all, this is not work: you just have a few injections. Word spreads quickly among friends. People tip each other off with comments such as, “You're a right handed male. Go for this one. It's great money.”

    For about …

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