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News: News Articles

Chimpanzees as vulnerable subjects in research

April 1, 2014 • Posted in News Articles

Johnson, J. & Barnard, N. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics. April 2014

Abstract: Using an approach developed in the context of human bioethics, we argue that chimpanzees in research can be regarded as vulnerable subjects. This vulnerability is primarily due to communication barriers and situational factors—confinement and dependency—that make chimpanzees particularly susceptible to risks of harm and exploitation in experimental settings. In human research, individuals who are deemed vulnerable are accorded special protections. Using conceptual and moral resources developed in the context of research with vulnerable humans, we show how chimpanzees warrant additional safeguards against harm and exploitation paralleling those for human subjects. These safeguards should include empowering third parties to act as surrogate decision makers for chimpanzees, ensuring participant “assent,” and avoiding recruitment of animal subjects based merely on convenience.

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