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Defining a European concept of vulnerability in biomedical research
Third-party funded project
Project title Defining a European concept of vulnerability in biomedical research
Principal Investigator(s) Gennet, Éloïse
Co-Investigator(s) Elger, Bernice Simone
Organisation / Research unit Ethik / Institut für Bio- und Medizinethik
Project start 01.02.2015
Probable end 31.01.2016
Status Completed


This projects studies the concept of vulnerability in the specific field of biomedical research. It analyses and compares the definition of vulnerable persons and their type of vulnerability in European law both from the European Union and from the Council of Europe, as well as in major ethical or professional international guidelines dealing with the topic. Two main observations can be made. First, protection of vulnerability is often too narrowly limited to legal incapacity whereas litterature shows that decisional vulnerability can concern anyone under financial, hierarchical or familial pressure etc. Second, vulnerability is most of the time limited to this decisional vulnerability, leading to paternalistic behaviours excluding many people from biomedical research. On the contrary, some peope may have a rather clinical vulnerability that would necessitate researchers to study their vulnerability and treat them properly. Therefore, this project suggests a concept of vulnerability in biomedical research that would allow a more personnalized and adequate protection of vulnerable persons depending on what they are vulnerable to.

Keywords vulnerability, biomedical research, European law, comparative law
Financed by Foundations and Associations
University of Basel

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