Letter to the Editor: Medical Ethics

Pamela K. Grow, M.D.

Dear Editor,

We are treading on some very dangerous ground.

I do not believe that force and coercion should ever intersect with medicine, in the case of an adult patient capable of making decisions. Likewise parents should not be forced or coerced by third parties into making certain decisions for their children.

Medical research into experimental therapies which may be under experimental use authorization, when involving human subjects, should never utilize force or coercion, and neither should it offer financial rewards. People volunteering in medical trials should do so altruistically, because they are motivated to help their fellow human beings or loved ones in the study of disease and search for therapies. Only minor payments to defray those volunteers’ expenses should be made. I believe that it is ethically questionable to offer monetary prizes to people for participating in therapy trials.

I learned these things while a student at Washington University School of Medicine in the 1980’s, and these ideas were reinforced while I completed my pediatrics residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I heard these things from instructors and attending physicians for whom I had the utmost respect. What has happened to us?


Pamela K. Grow, M.D.