the door for potential abuses, this new approach should actually increase the protection of prisoners involved in research.
This committee, like the original commission, is focused on the protection of prisoners as our core ethical concern. However, there are many approaches one can take to accomplish this goal, involving different levels of protective oversight mechanisms. One scholar outlines three types of protectionism:
Weak protectionism is the view that this problem is best resolved through the judgment of virtuous scientists. Moderate protectionism accepts the importance of personal virtue but does not find it sufficient. Strong protectionism is disinclined to rely, to any substantial degree, on the virtue of scientific investigators for purposes of subject protection (Moreno, 2001).
The movement over time has been from weaker to stronger forms of protectionism as a means of addressing a fundamental problem, specifically, the tension between protecting the interests of subjects and promoting scientific progress. Strong protectionism sharply limits investigator discretion and demands external assurances through measures such as third-party monitors of consent, conflict-of-interest committees, and other procedures. These external assurances can be associated with costs, thus leading to an ethical critique of strong protectionism. For example, an emphasis on external assurances may weaken the sense of personal moral responsibility on the part of investigators. Similarly, rigid external assurances, like those seen in the current regulations, can direct attention away from an analysis of risks and benefits, where the key ethical issues can be found.
Simultaneously, there has been a countervailing force in the march toward strong protectionism, exemplified in the push by acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) activists for greater access to clinical trials and by progressives for the inclusion of women and children in research studies. More recently, there has been a similar movement to ensure that racial and ethnic minority groups are included in research. These tendencies form one basis for a somewhat different reading of the history. This reading indicates a trend away from viewing certain types of research participation (especially clinical trials) as mostly risky or burdensome toward viewing them as mostly beneficial.
This represents a change in thinking about distributive justice. The commission focused on the equitable distribution of risks and worried that prisoners would bear more than their fair share. However, an equally valid case can be made for attention to the distribution of benefits. For example, Mastroianni and Kahn (2001) wrote that, in the 1970s, federal “policies emphasized the protection of human subjects from the risks of harm in