An Asthmatic Child


A scenario meant to stimulate discussion regarding ethical issues in conducting research with children: Parents approach you to ask if their child can be enrolled in a study.


An asthmatic child comes into the ER who has previously had difficulty with side effects from her medication: feeling jittery, elevated heart rate, and vomiting. The parents want to find a medication that does not have these side effects and have heard about the hospital's efficacy study of a new drug that supposedly has fewer side effects. They want to enroll their child.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you say to them about the advisability of doing so?
  • Does the child's age matter?
  • Are there factors that would make a relevant difference to what you would say?

Caroline Whitbeck introduced methods and modules for discussing numerous issues in responsible conduct of research at a Sigma Xi Forum in 2000. Partial funding for the development of this material came from an NIH grant.

You can find the entire sequence on the OEC at Scenarios for Ethics Modules in the Responsible Conduct of Research. Some information in these historical modules may be out-of-date; for instance, there may be a new edition of the professional society's code that is referred to in an item. If you have suggestions for updates, please contact the OEC.

Caroline Whitbeck. . An Asthmatic Child. Online Ethics Center. DOI:.