Eddie Jacobs
Ethics Research Fellow

A Different Clinical Ethics for a Different Clinical Research: Grounding Post-Trial Access to Non-Western Medicines in a Non-Western Ethical Framework.

Debates abound as to how clinical science can respectfully, non-tokenistically, engage with the indigenous cultures from which it has drawn both psychedelic plants and wisdom about its use. While wholesale or partial translation of sacramental practices, and the unfamiliar ontological worldviews on which they depend, can suffer clumsy cultural distortions and risk alienating patients unfamiliar with them, the same may not be true for designing research practices informed by the ethical worldviews from indigenous cultures.

This talk takes Ibogaine research as a case-study in doing just this. The values that comprise Western Clinical Ethics, which in recent decades have seen individual, atomistic autonomy come to predominate discourse, are contrasted with characteristically sub-Saharan values which are not reducible to beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy and justice.

The merits of developing clinical research with Ibogaine around the ethical worldviews of the culture from which it is drawn are explored. With the researcher-participant relationship conceived as one of co-operative participation in a shared way of life and project, rather than a time-limited contractual exchange between autonomous peers, a number of the potential harms and risks that psychedelic trial participants can be exposed to are minimised. By prioritising partialist, relational values like shared identity and solidarity, instead of impartial values such as autonomy, trial participants are better protected from harms that can otherwise go overlooked.


Eddie Jacobs is a Research Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities, and a current doctoral student at the Department of Psychiatry. Having started in the psychedelic space as Science Officer at the Beckley Foundation, a UK-based NGO that researches psychedelics, his interests lie in how scientific and ethical dimensions of medical advances impact upon the practical realities of securing positive change.

Since then, he has provided evidence for UK Parliamentary Committees on Medical Cannabis and the Human Rights Implications of COVID-19 responses, as well as conducting research on the UK public’s attitudes towards psilocybin rescheduling.

A member of the UK charity Drug Science’s Medical Psychedelics Ethics Consortium, his current research involves talking to former psychedelic trial participants to understand how they make sense of the non-clinical changes that can follow treatment, and how the unusual character of the modality might require a rethink of how we apply the ethical principles that govern clinical practice.