What researchers must do to protect humans and what Congress ought to do

In the proposed health care takeover, Congress ought to be at least as solicitous of us civilians as researchers are of human subjects of scientific research.

The standards for research on human subjects are well laid out in training materials all over the USA and all over the internet. Look anywhere.

For instance, the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut features a page for graduate students on ethics and informed consent.

Researchers across the country use the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training before seeking approval for each research project involving human subjects.

In the month of August 2009, when the government health care takeover looms, it is good to keep in mind this gem of enforced humility that each researcher must face:

People, including researchers, tend to underestimate risks involved in activities with which they are familiar and to overestimate the benefit of things that are important to them. Thus, an independent assessment of risk is critical. One function of the IRB is to provide this independent assessment.

Mutatis mutandam, for honorable representatives and senators preparing to vote HR 3200 up or down, a bit of humility is also appropriate and sorely needed. Instead of being called "un-American" for asking tough questions and demanding answers, we regular civilians can do the job of independent assessment of risk in the government health care takeover. If it is normal for scientific researchers to get independently assessed by their institutional review board, then it is entirely normal for us civilians to analyze and assess risks in the HR 3200 proposal.

Let’s be confident in a town hall meeting or any other venue. And to Speaker Pelosi: knock it off with the Richard Nixon re-runs and "un-American" gas emissions. We are part of it, too! In other words,


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