Is the legal protection for the foetus adequate in clinical trials?

Dalrymple, Harris William (2016) Is the legal protection for the foetus adequate in clinical trials? PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In 2009 and 2010, the major drug regulatory bodies, the European Medicines Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, issued requests for the generation of information relating to the absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, efficacy and safety of investigational drugs in pregnant women prior to approval. In the wake of thalidomide, research involving pregnant women other than for obstetric or gynaecologic purposes became rare, and studies of investigational drugs practically unknown. Consequently, none of the legislation applicable in the UK and few of the guidelines introduced in the last 40 years properly addresses the conduct of clinical trials of investigational drugs in this population. This thesis questions whether the legal protection for the foetus is adequate in clinical trials. The answer appears to be a qualified “no”.
Arguments persist regarding the moral standing of the foetus, particularly regarding abortion. That will not be the intent of such trials, and a moral case is made for the conduct of clinical trials in this population by analogy with the neonate, and the pregnant woman’s autonomy. Legally, we already recognise the foetus has ‘interests’ which crystallise upon live birth, and that compensation is recoverable for harm inflicted in utero manifesting as congenital injury. The essence of research is quite different from medical practice, and the extent to which this is understood by trial participants is unclear. The approvals processes contain a number of inadequacies which have the potential to expose the foetus to harm and affect the consent of the pregnant woman. The recovery of compensation in the event of children born injured following clinical trials during pregnancy in many ways may be more complex than other personal injury cases..
The conclusions of this thesis are that the existence of a foetus does merit recognition by the law in this setting and that morally such studies are justifiable. However, the present legislation and approval processes potentially expose the foetus to avoidable risk and may not be appropriate to enable the recovery of compensation, thereby creating potential to deter future trial participants. A proposal is made regarding an approach to simplify the process for recovery of compensation, and thereby strengthen the approval and consent processes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Clinical trials, pregnancy, consent.
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Supervisor's Name: Elliston, Ms. Sarah
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Harris W Dalrymple
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7681
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2016 15:10
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2016 09:00

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