A More Persuasive Justification for Pediatric Research

Paul J. Litton, University of Missouri School of Law


No one produces more thoughtful and insightful work on the ethics of pediatric research than Dave Wendler. I claim, though, that there is a more persuasive justification for pediatric research that does not offer clinical benefit to compensate for its associated minimal risks. Wendler (2012) argues that pediatric research risk, without compensating clinical benefit, is acceptable because of two potential nonmedical benefits to children: First, a child could embrace later in life her contributions to others' lives.

Second, contributing to an important project can improve a child's objective well-being. Wendler, defending an objective theory of well-being, claims that one life is more choiceworthy than an otherwise identical life if it includes causal contributions to a good cause. On his view, it is ethically permissible to enroll a child in a socially valuable protocol with very low risks, even without potential medical benefit, because those risks are outweighed by these nonmedical benefits.