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It has been illegal to treat humans like guinea pigs since the Nuremberg trials, in which Nazi doctors were punished for doing unspeakable things to prisoners. These days, we have to explain the experiment to the people taking part in trials for new treatments and get their permission (their “informed consent”).

Specifically, we have to tell them about the risks of taking part. So in a trial of a new drug, we have to tell patients about all the possible side-effects. In ethical geek-speak, we have to preserve patients’ autonomy by giving them enough information to make an autonomous decision. Which is fine, up to a point.

Read the full article on The Conversation website, written by Dr Jeremy Howick (Faculty of Philosophy, Humanities Division). Oxford is a subscribing member of The ConversationFind out how you can write for The Conversation.

This research is also covered in a news story on the University of Oxford website