Volunteers

In this section of the site, the tabs opened here will provide general background information about several important clinical research topics. One of the most common concerns raised by potential research participants or volunteers is: “I don’t want to be a guinea pig.” In the distant past, there were human studies conducted that did not adequately safeguard research volunteers, such as the appropriately notorious Tuskeegee syphilis study (for more, go to Racism and Research) in which African American men with syphilis were unknowingly denied treatment as part of a long term observation of the effects of untreated syphilis. These abuses were widely publicized, and as a result, human clinical research is now tightly regulated and monitored. Clinical research is still research, in that nobody can state the outcome of a study until it has been completed, and as a result, research studies will always have some element of known and unknown risk. However, potential volunteers can only enter studies after informed consent – and participants are free to withdraw from a study at any time for any reason without any type of retaliation. Research protocols must be designed to minimize risk and maximize potential benefit, and must pass the scrutiny of independent Institutional Review Boards (IRB) comprised of both professional and lay people having no connection to those sponsoring the research study under review. We hope that the topics covered here will provide both reassurance and valuable information for those of you who may wish to volunteer for a clinical research study.