Washington Law Review


Two sets of federal regulations, the "Common Rule" and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, govern human subject research that is either federally-funded or involves FDA regulated products. These regulations require, inter alia, that: (1) researchers obtain informed consent from human subjects, and (2) that an Institutional Review Board (IRB) independently review and approve the research protocol. Although the federal regulations do not provide an express cause of action against researchers, research subjects should be able to bring informed consent and malpractice actions against researchers by establishing a duty of care and standard of care. Researchers owe human subjects a duty of care analogous to the special relationship between physicians and patients. The federal regulations should provide the minimum standard of care for informed consent in human subject research, and complying with them should be a partial defense. In contrast, expert testimony should establish the standard of care for researcher malpractice, and IRB approval should be a partial defense.

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