Tackling a sensitive issue, former University President Harold Shapiro cautioned yesterday of the “complex and complicated” issues of medical ethics involving human experimentation.
It is both “a part of the great humanitarian effort to take us to a better part” and a “special privilege which carries with it a special ethical responsibility,” he said.
Shapiro pointed out in his lecture, titled “Ethical Considerations in Research on Human Subjects Time for Change Again,” that today”s “clinical research has become a vast enterprise.” For example, informed consent has become too legalistic.
Shapiro told the audience at C.S. Mott Children”s Hospital last night that medical researchers are too concerned with completing the process as quickly as possible.
“It”s a continuous process, not a hurdle that one needs to get over,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro also argued for better education, training and certification programs for researchers involving human subjects, a system of compensation for the participants and a greater public accountability of all local Institutional Review Boards, which conduct independent ethics reviews for research projects involving human subjects.
“We need to treat (human subjects) as heroes and demonstrate how much we revere and respect them,” Shapiro said.
He addressed “an excruciatingly important topic for doctors and public in large,” said Howard Markel, director of the Historical Center for the Health Sciences.
“There are a lot of problems going on in this field, for example, (the death of a human subject) at Johns Hopkins University” in June 2001, said Philip Margolis, chairman of the department of psychiatry, which sponsored the Raymond W. Waggoner Lectureship on Ethics and Values in Medicine.
“This is a very hot cutting-edge topic,” Margolis said.
Shapiro served as president of the University from 1980 to 1988. While in Ann Arbor, he also served as the chairman of the executive board of the University Hospitals. In 1996, he was appointed by former President Clinton as the chairman of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Currently, he is an economics professor at Princeton University, where he served as president until last summer.