Should medical doctors administer experimental treatment to patients?

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How ethical are clinical trials?

Should the societal benefits of clinical trials outweigh the potential risk they pose to people receiving the experimental drugs?

Should the societal benefits of clinical trials outweigh the potential risk they pose to people receiving the experimental drugs?

Should medical doctors administer experimental treatment to patients?


I hope to explore the ethical issues surrounding clinical trials. I wonder about how giving treatment to patients without knowing the full effects can be considered ethical. The whole point of a trial is to test the treatment, so it isn’t fully understood when it is administered to the participants of a trial. How does the principle of nonmaleficence fit into this? Can a patient truly give full autonomy if they don’t understand all the side effects, risks, and benefits of their treatment? This can be controversial because many patients enter trials as a last hope when their doctors conclude that existing treatments won’t be effective. Ultimately, the patients decide between not receiving any treatment, receiving treatment they know won’t work, and entering a clinical trial to receive treatment without knowing everything they can expect.


Clinical trials are important to society because they can help not only the patients receiving the treatment, but also future patients that will benefit from the findings of the research. They help the individual because they have the opportunity to receive treatments before they are available to the rest of the population, so they can see benefits that others may miss. Trials help society because they make it possible for doctors to develop therapies for diseases, making them better equipped to provide effective healthcare to the masses. 


While clinical trials are hugely important, they also come with risks. Serious side effects are possible, and the treatment may put the patient in pain that they couldn’t foresee. The treatment might not work, which could be detrimental to the patient if they had hoped for results. In addition, patients could be part of the “control group” so they don’t receive treatment at all. Some insurances may not cover the cost of clinical trials, which could be detrimental to the participants. One clinical trial in 2006 resulted in the participants’ immune systems crashing, their livers and kidneys failing, and severe swelling. While instances like this are rare, they are a possibility that must be considered when weighing the ethics of clinical trials.


When clinical trials are proposed, they must meet the criteria of an Institutional Review Board that ensures the protection of the rights and safety of the participants. It also makes sure that the benefits of the trial outweigh the possible side effects. While this process does not guarantee the safety of a trial, it helps eliminate unnecessary risks. In addition, the first phase of trials are always meant to find the best dosage of the drug to administer without seeing serious side effects. This phase is meant to protect the safety of the patients, not test the efficacy of the treatment. 


The principle of nonmaleficence applies to clinical trials because there are preventative measures taken to minimize the risks patients are exposed to. While not every clinical trial ends up protecting the safety of the participants, the risk is guaranteed to be minimal and patients sign informed consent forms before entering trials. Beneficence is also respected because the trials have the potential to not only benefit the people receiving the treatment, but generations of patients who will come after them. Respect for autonomy is respected because the doctors provide the patients with the most comprehensive information available to help them make an informed decision. In an ethical trial, doctors will not withhold any information from patients or mask it in any way. If the risks and benefits of experimental treatments can be understood by the volunteers, then the trial is ethical, as it follows the principles of bioethics. 


This project is important because it explores and advocates for the rights and protection of clinical trial patients. While it is their choice to enter trials, we should still consider the dangers that they face by offering their bodies for the sake of research. There are mental and physical risks to undergoing new treatments, and a full understanding of those risks and benefits can lead individuals to make the best decisions for themselves.



  1. Hi! I think you have a very interesting topic. I also think you make some excellent points in your video about this clinical trials that are very much true. Your understanding of this topic seems to be very well by your writing. You have lots of great information and sources. I think you did an amazing job on your website and pulling together you beautiful question. Great job!!

  2. Nice job, Lane! I think it is so interesting to research and talk about the many pieces of the trials, especially the risks of some to benefit the larger community and future generations. Thank you!

  3. Very well done! Your project is so interesting since it explores an idea which many are not educated about. I never considered the reasons that an individual would submit themselves to a clinical trial, and the severeness of their reasons for participations. Your project is a strong way to raise awareness from those who can help make these changes. Your Question is interesting and your research is clear!

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