The Olivieri Case: An Ethical Dilemma of Clinical Research and Corporate Sponsorship

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CASE STUDY. This case focuses on issues of research ethics and academic freedom so important to the public interest that it attracted national and international attention.

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The Olivieri Case: An Ethical Dilemma of Clinical Research and Corporate Sponsorship: Abstract

The « Olivieri Case » was a high-profile series of ethical disputes concerning multiple institutions and individual researchers involved in the clinical research on a new drug. The drug was developed during the mid-1980s to mid-1990s to treat an inherited, potentially fatal blood disorder called thalassemia. The initial dispute arose from an attempt to advise patients of potential side effects of Deferiprone (L1). It was subsequently compounded by oversights, mistakes and misjudgements by individuals, public institutions, a private corporation and inquiry panels.

This case focuses on issues of research ethics and academic freedom so important to the public interest that it attracted national and international attention.

Teaching objectives

The case allows students to understand:

  • The growing pressure of economic considerations in public-sector decisions and how those decisions impact ethical issues
  • How corporate sponsorship of research relates to business ethics
  • Organizational theory at both the individual and group/organizational level. In particular, examination of ethical theories such as utilitarianism and the deontological approach
  • The essence of the conflict between organizations and individuals by having students explore the operational codes or standards each uses as a guide

Additional information

Teaching notes are available for teachers only. Contact the HEC Montréal Case Centre for more information.

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