There is no question that anything which improves human welfare is ethically sound; especially if it promotes a fundamental human right –the right to live. Medicine and research that prolongs life and protects the vulnerable from illness is undoubtedly the best application of this right. As such the creation of new drugs and clinical trials to test these advances in medicine are essential. They address a huge burden of diseases that can take away life so easily, particularly of those in developing countries. Yet the practical benefits that come from such trials may not be good enough. And though the trials in medicine do help people in the long run, they can appear to be indirectly ignoring other human rights.
A key issue that has arisen from medical research is whether or not the conduct of these trials can be said to be just and humanitarian. The initial idea and the motive to create better drugs can be seen to positively contribute to human rights; however an increasingly urgent problem is whether or not the research is trampling on other rights of the participants which have allowed researchers to consider their experiments and indeed human rights as a whole.
One example that may be considered is HIV trials that are generally conducted amongst a population that has a large percentage infected with the disease. A trial that is conducted in such an area may be beneficial to the medical community as it provides a bigger yield of valid results. As such, any new drugs which are introduced can be analysed and considered with a more advanced understanding and provide an exciting outcome and be even published in a high profile medical journal. Yet the state of the participants and the condition of which they live in are disregarded. Furthermore, the situation that they may be left in after a particular research is completed is not taken into account which brings the question of whether the trials are even worthwhile.
The focal point of this problem may be partly due to funding which perhaps does not take into consideration the additional capital that may be required to assist the participants who helped them in their research. Also, externally funded research and privately sourced funding may not allow for further resources in order to make a more financially sound investment, but as a consequence we find that the people who take part are almost exploited and overshadowed because of a so called larger purpose in creating new drugs. The conduct of such trials are most commonly funded by richer countries and are carried out in the developing , poverty stricken areas where trials can generate more applicants than in a country that has a more established healthcare system. Thus clinical trials are more often than not welcomed, in areas where the disease is difficult to battle and more endemic as it is seen as better than nothing in terms of medical assistance. What is more problematic is that since the need of medicine is so essential in these parts of the world, the ethics and the issue of litigation is often overlooked and cast aside which put the participants in a further weakened position with little hope of support after the trial is done or if anything is to go wrong during the trial. With such a system, participants become nothing more than figures as part of a statistical outcome and are ignored of their human quality.
As a method of resolution it can be noted that all trials should be subject to ethical committees that can help to bring more value to the people who contribute to a particular type of research. By making researchers answerable to this kind of review can safeguard participants who unknowingly apply to trials without being fully aware of the situation. However informed consent may not be the only solution to helping people in this circumstance. Showing contributors the progress made in the research they are taking part in allows them to be more aware of how they are helping the medical community. Also the opportunity to be allowed to continue with the trial drug or a substitute prescription may give a longer term benefit and help them even after the research has been done. Though many trials are subject to ethical committees, there is still a prominent problem in the fact that the people who help in these trials are not given the full amount of rights that they deserve or that all research carried out is made to be legally obliged to go through this process. As it currently stands, many clinical trials are seemingly upholding perhaps one or maybe two human rights which makes them appear indifferent to others. But with a more holistic approach to human rights, the improvements made to lives of the participants can be improved vastly which in turn can make medical research not only scientifically constructive but also life affirming and morally optimistic.