You Get What Someone Else Will Pay For

Publication Title

Theoretical & Applied Ethics

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Document Type



Other Philosophy | Philosophy


Although information about risks, benefits, alternatives and costs is offered to human research participants in informed consent documents, information about how much the tested medical intervention is expected to cost future patients is not routinely made available to research participants. Two arguments are offered in support of including this information. First, justice demands that participants are given this information so that they do not inadvertently sign up for studies to test interventions that in the future will be out of their financial reach, or the reach of their family or community. Second, the cost of an intervention is rightly part of the risk/benefit profile of any medical intervention, and as such should be included so that research participants can make a judgment comparing the tested intervention against the current standard of care, if one is available. Several objections to this new practice are raised. Sharing the future costs of the treatment under investigation may be prohibitive to study sponsors who don't yet have that information; it may be unhelpful to participants who won't know what to make of the information; finally, the information may not be relevant to current participants. Replies are offered to each objection. It is concluded that research participants should be given information about the future costs of the medical interventions they are testing so that they might be fully informed about the risks and benefits of the medical intervention under study.