Neoliberal Biomedical Knowledge Production: Clinical Trials and the Vulnerable Subjects of EU Law

Flear, M. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


This paper explores how EU law helps to produce and support the preference for pharmaceutical responses in public health governance, while authorising the production of vulnerable subjects through the growing outsourcing of clinical trials. I demonstrate how EU law allows and legitimates the use of data procured from vulnerable subjects abroad for market authorisation and corporate profitability at home. This is possible because the EU has (de)selected international ethical frameworks in order to support the continued and growing use of clinical trials data from abroad. This has in turn helped to stimulate the revision of international ethical frameworks in light of market needs, inscribing EU public health law within specific politics (that often remained obscured by the joint workings of legal and technological discourses). I argue that law operates as part of a broader neoliberal technology that functions to optimise life through resort to market reasoning. Law is thereby reoriented, instrumentalised and deployed as part of a broader project aimed at (re)defining and limiting the boundaries of the EU’s responsibility for public health, including the broader social production of public health problems and the unequal global order that the EU represents and helps to depoliticise and perpetuate. Overall, this limits the EU’s responsibility and accountability for these failures, as well as another: the weak and mutable protections and insecure legacies for vulnerable trial subjects abroad.
Period24 Apr 2014
Held atVrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium