"If they haven't begun already, it is inevitable that human subjects will be needed to test the safety of antidotal measures to chemical or biological weapons," says Caplan, the Emanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics and Chair of Penn's Department of Medical Ethics. "While the specifics and the results of such tests may necessarily be secret, it is important that we discuss how trials would be conducted and how we will use those findings as best as possible."
In developing effective vaccines or counter-agents, medical science should not sacrifice safety for speed, according to Caplan and Sankar. The bioethicists remind academic institutional review boards - the panels that oversee the formulation of experimental protocols - of their duty to establish guidelines for fair and humane treatments of human test subjects.
In their editorial, Caplan and Sankar state that "these guidelines must also address who may be recruited as subjects, what level of competency they should demonstrate, how the freedom of their choice can be ensured, what types of end points will be used, what compensation they will be given, and what level of oversight will be in place."