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Parallel experience: how art and art theory can inform ethics in human research
  1. L Schwartz
  1. Correspondence to:
 L Schwartz
 Arnold Johnson Chair in Health Care Ethics, McMaster University, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, HSC 3V43, 1200 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, L8N 3Z5;


Trends in ethical research involving humans emphasise the importance of collaboration, of involving research subjects, alongside the researchers in the construction and implementation of research. This paper will explore parallels derived from another tradition of investigation of the human: art and art theory. An artist’s inquiry into the problems of human research will be described, followed by the application of arguments from art theory to research practice. Recently artist Christine Borland has provided examples in which the lack of collaboration in research has caused injustice. Borland’s work reflects these ethical dilemmas and questions the procedures and assumptions involved. In most cases the value of subject anonymity is called into question because it reduces the subjects’ control over themselves. The application of art theory, which has already considered these problems, helps question and explore the ways in which the subject turned object of artistic or scientific interpretation can maintain some control and dignity.

  • ethics
  • research
  • human subjects
  • collaboration
  • art
  • art theory

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