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Is each of us morally obligated to volunteer as a subject for biomedical research? Are we blameworthy if we don't sign up to participate in clinical trials? Of the several proponents of this startling notion, bioethicist John Harris put the case perhaps most forcefully in a 2005 article in the Journal of Biomedical Ethics. He contends that

the obligation to participate in research should be compelling for anyone who believes there is a moral obligation to help others, and/or a moral obligation to be just and do one's share. Little can be said to those whose morality is so impoverished that they do not accept either of these two obligations.

According to Harris, even children (providing they are competent) bear this obligation, via their parents.

In the current Hastings Center Report [subscription only], Stuart Rennie examines this point of view. He surveys three arguments advanced singly or in concert by those who claim participation is a moral imperative:

  • the "rescue" argument: if one fails to participate in medical research, one fails to prevent harms and is blameworthy...