Background: I work in infectious disease clinical trials research. My role is not in a lab or in a clinic; I work on the data side–writing study protocols, designing databases, etc. When I started my new job less than a year ago, the company didn’t really give me an option as to what disease I’d work on–it was just, you’re in the infectious disease department and you’ll be working on sexually transmitted infections. That part didn’t really bother me–I feel like working to find cures for any disease is a good thing, regardless of the morality of how people got the disease.
When I started to get further into the job, I learned that a requirement of many clinical trials is that women in the study must be on birth control (or abstinent) for the duration of the study to avoid any harm to an unborn child from an untested drug. I felt uncomfortable with drafting study documents instructing clinic staff to counsel subjects on pregnancy and STI prevention, and making sure the birth control requirement made it into the protocol, and things like that. I wrote to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and they told me it was remote material cooperation, permissible because it’s my job (my livelihood) and because I don’t intend for the women to contracept and I’m not an essential link to the contraception. That comforted me.
I have a new task now–I have to write the checklists for the nurses at the clinic to make sure they do everything per the study protocol. For one study, this includes “encourage patients to use condoms throughout the duration of the study.” For whatever reason, this is bugging me. Maybe it’s that I feel like I’m playing a part in encouraging birth control by my checklist “reminding” the nurses to encourage their patients to use ABC. (Certainly the patients have the option of abstinence, but since these are STI patients, it’s not likely.)
Am I just being scrupulous? Is this really any different from what I laid out above? It seems nuts to think that I could quit my job over typing a single line of text on a form, but I guess better that than sin. I feel like I’ve spent the past few months just terrified that some moral issue is going to come up that I’m going to have to quit over, but this is about the extent of how “bad” my job duties could get since we don’t do anything related to abortion. (Although if patients get pregnant, they have to leave the study, and I guess if they choose to have an abortion they could stay in the study and continue receiving monetary benefits from it which *could *be considered encouragement? but we never encourage/discourage abortion in all official documents and correspondence.)