Essay on Ethics on Trial Experiments Involving Humans

Published: 2021/11/11
Number of words: 2292


The study focuses on ethical considerations that should be made when conducting research trials that involve human beings. Human experiments cannot be treated like the rest of the organisms, which makes it necessary to have guidelines on how to maneuver. Most of such trials are carried out by developed countries, using human experiments in developing nations. As such, there are ethical considerations that arise whenever a human being is involved in the research (Jonas, 2017). The paper will focus on a Cambodian case, which included over 900 women used as trials in the experiment. The trial aims to test the efficacy of the HIV preventative drug applied during the experiment. The specimens were supposed to be put in a placebo for over twelve months taking the medications. The trials in Cambodia were organized by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases. Surprisingly, the process did not materialize due to conditions that were put in place for those sex workers involved. The condition was that any women who could be infected by the virus during trials were to receive treatment elsewhere. Trials feared for their lives as this is against the regulations on trials that involve human experiments. There is a need to examine the ethical issues that are involved when conducting such experiments. The conditions set are against the HIV group activists who preferred that the trials take charge of treating the women. The Cambodian Women’s Network for Unity opposed the move and termed the move as one violating humanitarian rights for sex workers. The process was halted following complaints from government authorities. Both the Cambodian Women’s Network for Unity and HIV activist groups protested, which made authorities call for halting of the trials. The report focuses on the ethical considerations that rose due to the particular case. It is also essential to capture a literature review on what other researchers have done regarding ethics in clinical medicine. A methodology for the research is issued and findings that make the basis for concluding.

Literature Review

The literature review encompasses a background check on research conducted by other researchers on the issue of ethics in clinical medicine. Trials that involve the use of humans as experiments are sensitive in the society, making it necessary to follow ethical standards. For instance, Mandal, Acharya & Parija researched in the year 2011, highlighting the essence of allowing individuals to consent to such exercises. According to the study, humans should not be compared to other animals and should be accorded the deserved respect. The study mentions a case in history that involved German physicians who had conducted trials in a prisoner’s camp without their consent (Mandal, Acharya & Parija, 2011). Most of the subjects who were used in the experiment died or were crippled as a result. This is unethical as trials are supposed to be conducted upon the consent of the subjects. Also, the subjects are supposed to be taught and enlightened on the procedure, risks, and outcomes before deciding on whether to consent or not (Mandal, Acharya & Parija, 2011). The article mentions the declaration of Helsinki and directives that were drawn to direct medical doctors when conducting trials on humans.

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In 1964, the World Medical Association drafted guidelines that were to act as guiding principles to medical doctors conducting trials on humans (Mandal, Acharya & Parija, 2011). The first issue that Helsinki declaration addressed, as stipulated in the article, is to ensure such trials are based on results from the laboratory and experiments on animals. The regulation binds all research conducting institutions to have empirical results conducted on animals before consideration to use humans. Second, the protocols to be used by researchers should be reviewed by an independent panel before the initiation of the experiment. Third, participants in the study should be allowed to make informed consent. This means that participants should be made aware of the implications before deciding to take part (Mandal, Acharya & Parija, 2011). The declaration also required that research be conducted by professionals who are qualified both medically and scientifically. The Helsinki declaration ascertained that there must be implemented additional rules that protect the vulnerable. The vulnerable in community include the disabled, patients suffering from other diseases, minority groups and the illiterate, among others (Jonas, 2017).

In the article “Racial Differences among Factors Associated with Participation in Clinical Research Trials,” the author describes research that is based on racial differences. The study focuses on a self-administered trial for patients who could complete the study without any assistance. The experiment aimed to find out whether there is a racial factor in decision making when one is participating in trial experiments (Kurt, Semler, Jacoby, Johnson, Careyva, Stello & Smulian, 2017). Ethical standards are mentioned in the research as a critical factor to consider when one is conducting a study involving human experiments. All participants were allowed to make an informed consent before the experiment. Minority groups are the most used specimens in trial experiments, especially for developed countries.

Wainwright is an expert who researched ethical concerns that are involved during trial experiments that use humans. In his work, the researcher focuses mainly on the autonomy and consent of participants in any trial (Wainwright, 2002). Concerns as to the criteria that developed countries apply in such experiments have increased in the recent past. According to the author, subjects should not be put through experimental research without informed consent. Also, the article notes with concern on how unethical it is to enroll patients for placebo-controlled experiments, even if they consent to it. In essence, the article stresses the significance of enlightening the participants before they decide to take part. Wainwright presents crucial information on the various cases that have proved to be ethically challenging in the use of humans as trials in clinical research (Wainwright, 2002).

A team of researchers led by Brody in the year 2018 conducted critical research on Cambodian sex workers. The article notes with the concern that there are high levels of HIV prevalence in Cambodia and the essence of preventing further spreading of the virus. In the article, mobile-based interventions were applied to reach out to sex workers who were used as experiments. The randomized controlled trial proved many that such strategies can be productive in ensuring a healthy community of sex workers (Brody, Tuot, Chhoun, Swendenman, Kaplan, & Yi, 2018). The author of the article notes that consent should be crucial and informed before one decides to participate in research.


Content analysis proved to be the right methodology for this particular study. Content analysis involves the examination of materials that shed light on the topic of discussion. The research focuses on the existing content on ethical concerns on trials that involve humans. Content analysis applies principles of inclusion and exclusion to determine appropriate materials for use in the study. Approximately 20 articles were considered for the study, and only seven managed to meet the inclusion criteria. The remaining 13 articles failed to meet the criteria for inclusion, necessitating for exclusion. The first inclusion criterion applicable was to ensure that materials address the issue of trial experiments and human involvement. Human involvement in clinical research has several concerns raised hence the need to conduct an in-depth study. Second, articles highlighting ethical concerns that attribute to trials in clinical research were given the priority. In essence, the research utilized content available online on the topic of discussion to provide more insight.

Google was very instrumental in helping conduct successful research on the topic of discussion. For instance, searching for content online on the same was facilitated by the Google. Articles that were excluded from the research were unsuitable for providing a clear insight regarding ethics in clinical medicine. For inclusion, an article must contain significant information on trial experiments that involve humans as participants. Use of content analysis to collect instrumental information proved to be economical and efficient. One can access a large pool of information on the topic of discussion at an affordable cost. There are numerous reports on various online platforms that helped to collect information relevant for the study. As such, the methodology applied proved helpful in collecting conclusive information on trial experiments.


Findings from the studies conducted indicate that there are rising ethical concerns on clinical research trials that involve humans. First, it is always important to inform the participants of the implications of taking part in the research. Such information can help individuals make an informed decision regarding trial experiments. The organization researching has to ensure that the society is fully sensitized on the matter. Researching without informing a participant of every danger that is impending is unethical and against the set standards in the clinical profession (Akhtar, 2015). According to various studies conducted recently, consent should be given priority whenever conducting an experiment involving humans. For instance, in the case of Cambodian women, there is an apparent conflict as to the way that placebo individuals are treated. No one will stand the idea of going for treatment elsewhere, having been infected during the trials (Metcalf & Crawford, 2016). The trial programs should ensure that it has made participants aware of the logistics involved in the experiments. As such, participants can be able to make informed decisions on whether to participate or not.

Second, findings indicate that many developing countries are conducting unethical trial experiments that are involving human trials. For instance, it is unethical to infect the subject of a study to an infection that the trial provides no cure. The case of sex workers who were put on placebo in Cambodia illustrates how established countries are taking advantage of the vulnerable in society for clinical research. Such practices within the community should be allowed unless the experiments meet all the criteria. International standards set on clinical research involved must be maintained in a bid to ensure that participants are well informed before the experiment. Notably, such research is not conducted by developing countries but rather by developed countries with enough resources. The findings from the study indicate that ethical concerns always encircle clinical research that uses humans as trials.

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Human beings are unique than other animals, and there is a need to hold regard for humanity when carrying out research involving humans. The vulnerable in the community are the most at risk of being used as participants in most trial experiments. There is a need to address such issues, especially when they arise courtesy of a big country. Also, minority groups risk being selected for participation. This is because most individuals who are aware of the consequences will not agree to such trials. Morally, there are concerns as to whether using humans for experiments is right. People should be respected in the society in whatever context. Informed consent help participants be aware of the risk involved in advance. As noted in the case of Cambodian women, there is a tendency of developed countries to take advantage of subjects in developing nations to conduct trials (Carrico, Nil, Sophal, Stein, Sokunny, Yuthea & Page, 2016). Clear guidelines should be put in place to oversee whether research on human experiments is ethical and consented. Ethical standards should be followed in every clinical discipline for decent and improved research.


To sum it up, clinical research involving human beings as experiments should be done per international ethical standards. Most victims who are placed under placebo are gullible and can be swayed without knowing the actual consequences. Develop countries have resources to conduct clinical trials, unlike developing nations that can only be used as subjects. From the studies conducted, clinical research should be done upon informing the participants of the implications of participating. This helps create understanding before one decides to take part. Also, regulations put in place international are meant to protect human participants in clinical research. Failure to uphold the policies aimed at protecting human specimens attracts dire consequences as one will be held accountable. Consent should form the basis for every research, and the researcher should be legally accredited to conduct the study by the relevant authority. Ethical standards should be upheld when carrying out research involving humans as subjects in any given context.


Akhtar, A. (2015). The flaws and human harms of animal experimentation. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics24(4), 407-419.

Brody, C., Tuot, S., Chhoun, P., Swendenman, D., Kaplan, K. C., & Yi, S. (2018). Mobile Link–a theory-based messaging intervention for improving sexual and reproductive health of female entertainment workers in Cambodia: study protocol of a randomized controlled trial. Trials19(1), 235.

Carrico, A. W., Nil, E., Sophal, C., Stein, E., Sokunny, M., Yuthea, N., … & Page, K. (2016). Behavioral interventions for Cambodian female entertainment and sex workers who use amphetamine-type stimulants. Journal of behavioral medicine39(3), 502-510.

Jonas, H. (2017). Philosophical reflections on experimenting with human subjects. In Human Experimentation and Research (pp. 3-31). Routledge.

Kurt, A., Semler, L., Jacoby, J. L., Johnson, M. B., Careyva, B. A., Stello, B., … & Smulian, J. C. (2017). Racial differences among factors associated with participation in clinical research trials. Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities4(5), 827-836.

Mandal, J., Acharya, S., & Parija, S. C. (2011). Ethics in human research. Tropical parasitology1(1), 2.

Metcalf, J., & Crawford, K. (2016). Where are human subjects in big data research? The emerging ethics divide. Big Data & Society3(1), 2053951716650211.

Wainwright, P. (2002). Consent to open label extension studies: some ethical issues. Journal of medical ethics28(6), 373-376.

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