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Lesser Harms: The Morality of Risk in Medical Research (Hardback)
  • Lesser Harms: The Morality of Risk in Medical Research (Hardback)

Lesser Harms: The Morality of Risk in Medical Research (Hardback)

Hardback 216 Pages / Published: 19/11/2004
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Research physicians face intractable dilemmas when they consider introducing new medical procedures. Innovations carry the promise of preventing or curing life-threatening diseases, but they can also lead to injury or even death. How have clinical scientists made high-stakes decisions about undertaking human tests of new medical treatments? In Lesser Harms, Sydney Halpern explores this issue as she examines vaccine trials in America during the early and mid-twentieth century.

Today's scientists follow federal guidelines for research on human subjects developed during the 1960s and 1970s. But long before these government regulations, medical investigators observed informal rules when conducting human research. They insisted that the dangers of natural disease should outweigh the risks of a medical intervention, and they struggled to accurately assess the relative hazards. Halpern explores this logic of risk in immunization controversies extending as far back as the eighteenth century. Then, focusing on the period between 1930 and 1960, she shows how research physicians and their sponsors debated the moral quandaries involved in moving vaccine use from the laboratory to the clinic.

This probing work vividly describes the efforts of clinical investigators to balance the benefits and dangers of untested vaccines, to respond to popular sentiment about medical hazards, and to strategically present risk laden research to sponsors and the public.

"Concise and extremely well-written. . . . A fascinating synthesis of sociology, history, and institutional theory."--Samuel C. Blackman, Journal of the American Medical Association

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226314518
Number of pages: 216
Weight: 500 g
Dimensions: 236 x 165 x 19 mm
Edition: Annotated edition

"In this concise and extremely well-written volume, Dr. Halpern . . . examines the moral traditions that govern the introduction of new medical interventions before and after the advent of federal regulation. To trace this evolution and illustrate her assertions, she uses innovations in the field of vaccine research in the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries. . . . Lesser Harms, while most certainly a scholarly work, provides a perspective on medical science that would also be appreciated by a broad audience. It would most certainly be of interest to physicians, both clinical and laboratory scientists, and those who design and participate in any aspoect of human subjects research."-- (08/03/2005)

"The story told in Lesser Harms should . . . inspire researchers and regulators to renew discussions of why risk minimization is of paramount importance."

--Adrienne Martic "Health Affairs "
"In LesserHarms Sydney Halpern traces the evolution of moral codes for conducting medical research right back to the 18th century, from the informal pressures exerted by professional networks during the testing of live polio vaccines through to the strict formal rules laid down by bodies like the FDA for gene therapy trials. She shows how far we've come in protecting the people who volunteer for clinical trials, and demonstrates why it's still not far enough. . . . Medical ethicists, researchers, policy makers and historians should read it. Volunteers in future clinical trials will thank them."--New Scientist

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