alexa The vulnerable and the susceptible.
Clinical Research

Clinical Research

Journal of Clinical Research & Bioethics

Author(s): Kottow MH

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Human beings are essentially vulnerable in the view that their existence qua humans is not given but constructed. This vulnerability received basic protection from the State, expressed in the form of the universal rights all citizens are meant to enjoy. In addition, many individuals fall prey to destitution and deprivation, requiring social action aimed at recognising the specific harms they suffer and providing remedial assistance to palliate or remove their plights. Citizens receive protection against their biologic vulnerability by means of an in rem right to health [care], which is more an attitude of protection than a specific programme. When individuals become susceptible, that is, biologically weak or diseased, they also increase their predisposition to additional harm, and require social actions to treat their demeaned condition. Such assistance takes the form of positive healthcare rights. Research on human beings has been slow to observe that the subjects recruited are susceptible, especially so if research is done in less developed countries. By mislabelling them as vulnerable--a characteristic they share with all humans--sponsors avoid registering the deprivation these people suffer, and the ethical obligation to offer them remedial help. The distinction between vulnerability and susceptibility also marks the difference between being intact but fragile--vulnerable--and being injured and predisposed to compound additional harm--susceptible. Awareness of this difference should give additional force to the rejection of double standards in research ethics.

This article was published in Bioethics and referenced in Journal of Clinical Research & Bioethics

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