When Research Serves Good Purposes: Three Additional Considerations to Determine the Ethical Use of Ill-Gotten Research

Kirkwood, Kenneth

It is a classic ethical dilemma to have something of potential value that comes at a tremendous cost to others.[1]  To access the good, you must have the bad. For decision-makers, it becomes an onerous task of deciding if they would deny the world something 'good' or create something bad to achieve the good. Weighing the two possible outcomes has proven timelessly frustrating to those well-intentioned people who wish to "do the right thing." Medical research has yielded data derived from unethical situations wherein research participants were vulnerable and whose consent was questionable, absent, or not sought.  The rules currently governing research allow for broad use of ill-gotten data. While providing a deterrent to unethical research practices, stricter rules still would allow some use of data. This paper argues the permissibility depends primarily on the nature of the unethical data collection and the potential benefits.


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Voices in Bioethics

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August 29, 2022


research ethics, exploitation, atrocity, experiments, methodology, unethical experiments