Bioethics Beyond the Biosphere: Using Human Subject Medical Research to Chart Out Regulation and Liability for Health Risks in Outer Space

February 4, 2019

Humans may be living in outer space sooner than we think. Because of the elevated potential for detrimental effects to human health in space, ethical standards must be established prior to the widespread formation of human space settlements. This article offers a framework for analyzing the bioethics of humans in space by analogizing the uncertainty in establishing a precautionary and liability framework for health risks in space by using models for medical experimentation on Earth.

An exploration of conventional bioethics principles, international guidelines for medical research, and regulations in the United States will parallel a precautionary framework for ensuring protections for humans during space travel. Past lawsuits brought by human-subject military members and private citizens in medical studies will provide an analogy to potential liability for health related injuries in space. With many looking to a future for humans beyond Earth, using this precedent to establish a precautionary and liability-based framework is ultimately a necessary step toward ensuring protections and liability for humans in space.

  • Author: Ashle M. Page
  • Cite: Ashle M. Page, Bioethics Beyond the Biosphere: Using Human Subject Medical Research to Chart Out Regulation and Liability for Health Risks in Outer Space, 20 N.C. J. L. & Tech. On. 37 (2018), //ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2019/04/PageFinalEdits.pdf.
  • PDF: //ncjolt.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2019/04/PageFinalEdits.pdf
  • Volume: Volume 20, Online Edition