Seminar Series: The Social Value Misconception in Clinical Research by Jake Earl, PhD

Monday, Jan 29, 2024
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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Bloomberg School of Public Health Feinstone Hall
615 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD

Clinical researchers should help respect the autonomy and promote the well-being of prospective study participants by helping them make voluntary, informed decisions about enrollment. However, participants often exhibit poor understanding of important information about clinical research. Bioethicists have given special attention to “misconceptions” about clinical research that can compromise participants’ decision-making, most notably the “therapeutic misconception.” These misconceptions typically involve false beliefs about risks or potential benefits for participants. In this presentation, Jake Earl argues that a previously unidentified misconception involving false beliefs about potential benefits for non-participants, or the expected social value of clinical research, can compromise altruistically motivated participants’ decision-making. This social value misconception raises ethical concerns about participants’ autonomy and well-being in a range of study types, including inherently low-value research, hyped research, and even ordinary research. Further empirical and normative work is needed to better understand and counteract this misconception’s negative impacts on altruistically motivated participants.

Jake Earl is an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University and a professional bioethics consultant. He previously completed a postdoctoral fellowship in bioethics at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and worked as a clinical ethicist at a comprehensive medical center. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Georgetown, and his research interests include research ethics and integrity, clinical and public health ethics, and reproductive ethics.