More Than Cheating: Deception, IRB Shopping, and the Normative Legitimacy of IRBs

Authors

  • Ryan Spellecy,

    1. Associate Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities and Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine in the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Thomas May

    1. Associate Professor of Bioethics and Medical Humanities and Ursula Von der Ruhr Endowed Professor of Bioethics in the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Deception, cheating, and loopholes within the IRB approval process have received significant attention in the past several years. Surveys of clinical researchers indicate common deception ranging from omitting information to outright lying, and controversy surrounding the FDA's decision not to ban “IRB shopping” (the practice of submitting protocols to multiple IRBs until one is found that will approve the protocol) has raised legitimate concerns about the integrity of the IRB process. While at first blush these practices seem to cast aspersions on the integrity of clinical researchers, the moral issues raised go deeper than the ethics of cheating. To the extent that these practices are common, or represent an IRB system that places unreasonable burdens on those seeking IRB approval, we should consider whether non-compliance reflects problems of normative legitimacy for the IRB system itself.

Ancillary