The Health Dugnad: Biobank Participation as the Solidary Pursuit of the Common Good

  • Lars Øystein Ursin
  • Berge Solberg


Rosamond Rhodes and John Harris have recently argued that we all have a general moral duty to participate in medical research. However, neither Rhodes’ nor Harris’ arguments in support of this obligation stand up to scrutiny, and severe and convincing criticism has been levelled against their case. Still, to refute their arguments is not to refute the conclusion. There seems to be some truth to the view that when people are asked to take part in medical research, their choice is not completely morally neutral. In this chapter, we argue that the proper question to ask is when, rather than if, a certain moral duty to volunteer for medical research can be appealed to. To answer this question, we need a denser description of relevant research projects and their context rather than just describing medical research in general. Drawing on our study of participants in the Norwegian HUNT biobank, we use the normative implications of the Norwegian concept “dugnad” as an analogy to discuss the requirement of providing neutral information to potential biobank participants in order to promote their free and informed decision as to whether or not to take part. We suggest that normative recruitment is not just a question of principles and ethics. It is also a question of research design and the creation of the common good in the community where the research takes place.


Moral Obligation Common Good Focus Group Participant Free Rider Moral Duty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars Øystein Ursin
    • 1
  • Berge Solberg
  1. 1.Philosophy Department and Bioethics Research GroupNorwegian University of Technology and ScienceTrondheimNorway

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