Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Philosophy (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Ed Erwin

Second Committee Member

Risto Hilpinen

Third Committee Member

Otávio Bueno


I argue for two main theses that are at odds with the positions of many clinical researchers and philosophers who write on the ethics of clinical research. The first is that certain types of clinical trials, namely, randomized clinical trials with double or triple blinding and a placebo group are generally necessary to establish that a medical intervention is effective in treating a certain type of disease or disorder. The second main thesis is that such trials are generally not ethically impermissible. My minimalist defense of clinical trials differs from most defenses of clinical trials found in the literature. I feel that the ethical permissibility of clinical trials can be judged by answering yes to the following questions: 1) Is the potential experimental subject competent to exercise his autonomy and his right of self determination in order to enroll in the clinical trial? 2) Is the potential experimental subject informed about the nature of risk and benefit involved in his participation in the clinical trial? 3) Is the trial scientifically/ epistemically valid? 4) Will the trial attempt to answer a scientific question or questions of value? I argue that competent persons have the right to enroll in scientifically valid clinical trials so long as they are informed and consent to participate.


Clinical Trials; Bioethics; Clinical Research; Research Ethics; RCTs; Placebo