No act of autoexperimentation, no matter how worthy or well intentioned, should be sanctioned until three conditions are fulfilled: (1) The proposed experiment has been fully described; (2) potential sources of coercion influencing the experimenter have been investigated and excluded; and (3) the institutional and social consequences of the experiment have been thoroughly explored, particularly with respect to risks such as the appearance of condoning inconsistent standards for the protection of human subjects. In most cases, fulfillment of these conditions will result in autoexperimentation being held to the same standard of review as any other forms of human investigation. These conditions are expressly designed to protect both the experimenter—subject and the institution, in equal measure.

The decision-making process associated with auto-experimentation should, therefore, involve peer review, and it should accord with established criteria for determining the acceptability of experimental protocols. At the very least, judgments about the permissibility of autoexperimentation must weigh questions of risk, benefit, voluntariness, and scientific significance, as well as the more elusive issues comprehended by the term institutional interests. While the requirement for institutional review may induce some scientists to experiment on themselves outside the scientific mainstream, this effect is unlikely to prevail and, as a practical matter, is virtually impossible to repress.


SEE ALSO: Autonomy;Harm;Paternalism; Research, Human: Historical Aspects; Research, Unethical

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