Ethics of children in clinical trials

Ethics of children in clinical trials

Involving children in research

Question 1

Edwards and McNamee identify the following three factors which go some way to justifying research involving children:

  1. Some diseases are exclusively diseases of children and therefore it would be impossible to use subjects other than children for research related to these conditions.

  2. Children are not miniature adults and therefore there are real metabolic differences between adults and children.  This means that therapies developed through research using adults cannot always be transferred safely to children.

  3. Research with children is necessary in order to understand the normal baseline for children.  It is only possible to understand abnormal reactions to drugs and therapies if the normal range has been established.

Other considerations might include:

  • There is a need to build up a body of expertise in research on children so that research will be well managed and safe
  • Children with serious conditions will be further disadvantaged if research into children’s diseases is not conducted
  • There are many instances of research where it is both of direct benefit to research participants and extremely safe to involve children

There are of course many serious concerns about using children as research subjects these include:

  • Young children are unable to consent for themselves and may be unable to understand what is happening to them
  • Children may be more easily coerced into co-operating with research than adults
  • Children may be more vulnerable to long term side effects from research compounds and procedures


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12 Apr 2017