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Noah Feldman

Courts Can't Mend a Parent's Broken Heart

Questions of research ethics are best resolved by medical professionals.
So very tiny.

So very tiny.

Photographer: Luis Davilla/Cover/Getty Images

How much should you know before your baby is entered into a medical study? That complicated and heartbreaking question has been at the center of a controversy about a clinical trial that tested the effects of different oxygen levels on premature infants with extremely low birth weights.

A federal judge in Alabama rejected last month the legal claims of parents whose children suffered adverse effects after participating. The court's decision was correct -- but not because the consent form given to parents was adequate for them to understand the risks, which as an ethical matter it probably wasn't.