Effectiveness of IRBs

For scientists such as this one, meeting regulatory requirements can become a substitute for thinking about difficult ethical issues.

Lack of resources and conflicts of interest also limit the effectiveness of IRBs. IRB members are unpaid volunteers who typically must review many research proposals yearly. In addition, many have vested interests in approving research pro- posals because their own research is partly financed by pharmaceutical companies or because their institutions can obtain research funding. Meanwhile, final responsibility for overseeing IRBs falls to the federal Office of Protection from Research Risks, which is far too understaffed to thoroughly re- view human subjects research.

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Nevertheless, and despite the limitations of IRBs and research ethics commit- tees, the rise of bioethics has curbed the most egregious abuses of human subjects. According to David Rothman


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