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Collective danger and individual risk: cultural perspectives on the hazards of medical research

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Changes in medical research ethics in the past two decades have made the communication of risk to potential participants a legal imperative. Using ethnographic data from two different cultures, we examine the hazards associated with medical research in relation to the respective societal contexts that imbue them with meaning. The Iban, a Dayak people indigenous to Borneo, perceive the hazards of participating in research in terms of danger to the collective. In Australia they are construed in terms of risk to individuals. Risk in medical research is one manifestation of a broader notion of ‘risk’ that is constitutive of the research enterprise itself and, we argue, fundamental to post-industrial society. (Intern Med J 2003; 33: 463−464)

Keywords: cultural; ethics; research; risk

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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