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Medical researchers' ancillary clinical care responsibilities

One frequently-raised issue relating to standards of care in research is the responsibilities researchers have if they identify medical conditions unrelated to the study during the course of research in developing countries. In this article, Leah Belsky and Henry Richardson propose an ethical framework to assist in determining research responsibilities in such circumstances.

The article begins by considering the two extremes of view, the first is that researchers must provide care for unrelated conditions, because they have a duty to help those in need, particularly when they can do so at minimal cost to themselves. The opposing view is that researchers owe nothing to research participants beyond what’s needed to complete the study safely and successfully.

The authors show more sympathy for the first of these two views and propose a model for research-participant relationship that lies between the extremes, but can leave researchers with some responsibility to care for conditions unrelated to the study. A case study of providing HIV treatment in a tuberculosis treatment trial is discussed. 

The authors conclude that attempts should be made by scientists and research ethics committees to anticipate researchers’ responsibilities for conditions unrelated to the study in advance and appropriate funding included in research budgets.

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