Center for Ethics and Humanities
in the Life Sciences

College of Human Medicine



Rebecca Dresser photo

The Choice to Become a Research Subject: A First-Person Perspective

Patients with serious illnesses are often invited to participate in clinical trials. After being diagnosed with advanced cancer, I became one of those patients. I had to choose between two options: a treatment regimen my doctors had recommended, or a trial evaluating different treatments for my disease. As someone who had taught and written about research ethics, and a long-time member of an Institutional Review Board, I was in some ways better prepared than many patients are to make this choice. And I knew about the important health benefits that come from research, as well as the arguments that patients have a duty to participate in research. Nevertheless, I decided not to enroll in the trial. Was this a defensible choice, or did I have a responsibility to contribute to a study that could help future patients in my situation?
Rebecca Dresser, JD, is a Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.
Recorded March 22, 2017

Watch on MSU MediaSpace

Back to List