Ethical Regulations of Medical Research Involving Human Subjects: Exploring the Perspective of Trial Participants


  • Anna Kravets Humboldt University of Berlin



commercialized clinical research, ethical regulations, biomedicine, critique of modernity, participant observation


In this paper I address the question of whether the existing ethical regulations of clinical research ensure protection and well-being of human subjects. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered in Berlin, Germany, I show that German institutions which are meant to ensure the ethical validity of clinical research cannot address posed issues. It appears that these institutions (Berlin Ethik-Kommission in particular) only evaluate research protocols and do not consider the broad spectrum of processes and interactions involved in clinical research. The experience of professional human subjects, as well as the consideration of the every-day life in a clinic, shows that there is much more to clinical trials. The argument of this paper is that the inability of institutions to address protection of human subjects originates from the bureaucratic logic of their organization. Drawing on Bauman‘s (1992) argument that the bureaucratic machine is characterized by separation between morality and purpose, with the example of Berlin Ethik-Kommission, I argue that the bureaucratic machine cannot be sensitive to morality and ethics, even if these are its main purposes.