• Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared

Prof. Alan Wertheimer, Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Email:


What I call ‘the standard view’ claims that IRBs should not regard financial payment as a benefit to subjects for the purpose of risk/benefit assessment. Although the standard view is universally accepted, there is little defense of that view in the canonical documents of research ethics or the scholarly literature. This paper claims that insofar as IRBs should be concerned with the interests and autonomy of research subjects, they should reject the standard view and adopt ‘the incorporation view.’ The incorporation view is more consistent with the underlying soft-paternalist justification for risk-benefit assessment and demonstrates respect for the autonomy of prospective subjects. Adoption of the standard view precludes protocols that advance the interests of subjects, investigators, and society. After considering several objections to the argument, I consider several arguments for the standard view that do not appeal to the interests and autonomy of research subjects.