Vol. 302 No. 1, pp. 7-108, July 1, 2009
The Obligation to Participate in Biomedical Research
G. Owen Schaefer, BA; Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD; Alan Wertheimer, PhD
The current prevailing view is that participation in biomedical research is above and beyond the call of duty. While some commentators have offered reasons against this, we propose a novel public goods argument for an obligation to participate in biomedical research. Biomedical knowledge is a public good, available to any individual even if that individual does not contribute to it. Participation in research is a critical way to support an important public good. Consequently, all have a duty to participate. The current social norm is that individuals participate only if they have a good reason to do so. The public goods argument implies that individuals should participate unless they have a good reason not to. Such a shift would be of great aid to the progress of biomedical research, eventually making society significantly healthier and longer lived.