Bioethics Blogs

DarkCo Petroceuticals, Angelic Solar Panels, and the SUPPORT Study

As the author of the article that claimed “vindication” for the SUPPORT study, I would like to respond to Professor Latham’s insightful interpretation of the issues in the case.  Like Professor Latham, I will not discuss whether the researchers exposed patients to risks that the researchers should have known about or adequately disclosed those risks.  And, of course, not being a lawyer, I defer completely to his legal expertise. For me to speculate about a law professor’s interpretation of the law would be as inappropriate as, say, law professors speculating about the best way to treat a premature baby. And I certainly do not want to make that error.

But I would like to examine his hypothetical example in order to highlight what it suggests about a common view of researchers and biomedical research.  (I recognize, of course, that this is merely a hypothetical example designed to illustrate a point about legal understandings of causality and has nothing, nothing whatsoever, to do with the SUPPORT trial. And so, neither will my example.) 

Latham imagines a city, Fair City, in which, like many cities, some citizens get cancer.  Then, a petroceutical company, named DarkCo (again, I’m sure, without any moral implications or any suggestion that this has anything to do with the SUPPORT study) dumps a potentially carcinogenic chemical into the water.  Not surprisingly, cancer rates rise.  But, as Latham points out, it is difficult to assign causality and accountability to the company and its carcinogenic chemical because the standard of proof required by law is so high. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.