Laura Schnieder – Experimental Subjects

Experimental Subjects in Clinical Pharmaceutical Research in Germany

Today's global hunt for biomedical innovation is increasingly relying on an ever growing number of experimental subjects in pharmaceutical research. The process of 'offshoring' clinical trials to Eastern Europe, China or India, where recruitment of possible research subjects is said to be much more 'effective' than for example in the US and some Western European countries, can count as one reaction to this challenge. In the wake of such phenomenons anthropologists and social scientists mainly situated in the US, Australia and Great Britain started to focus their research in the last to decades onto the clinical trials industry (Petryna 2009), inevitably touching the problem of the experimental subject on a theoretically and empirically informed basis. Despite the fact that global varieties of capitalism also clearly have an effect on research in drugs in Germany, little is known about the social structure of those who provide their bodily functions for research, about their experiences and their way to make sense of participation. Whilst the academic debate surrounding experimental subjects is often narrowed down to ethical guidelines under the imperative of protection, my PhD project aims to shed light on those marked potentially vulnerable, i.e. persons who are 'willing' to face the double liminal experience between being merely human experimental grounds and personal integrity, between experimental medicine and bodily intactness, from a social scientific perspective and lets them speak.


Author: Laura Schnieder