Corporations, CROs and Globalized Biomedical Research: Is Belmont Obsolete?

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American Academy of Religion


Christian and Jewish theologians and philosophers were key figures in shaping the normative principles for human subjects research (HSR). Yet since the publishing of the federal regulations governing HSR in 1981, HSR per se has received little theological attention. This is particularly anomalous given that 1980 marks a turning-point in HSR, as it moved from an enterprise circumscribed within a physician-researcher/patient-subject model to its current infrastructure as a multi-billion dollar global industry. This shift requires rethinking the philosophical and theological structure of research ethics. In particular, it requires that research ethics theorize both economics and the new agents of research—the corporation and the Contract Research Organization. This paper draws on liberationist critiques of neoliberal economics to demonstrate the limits of the Belmont principles in the context of global research as well as to propose new parameters for HSR rooted in the preferential option for the poor.


Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Montreal, Canada, November 8, 2009. Publisher link.