In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of scientists have been conducting experiments on themselves with the goal of finding a vaccine against the virus. Based on the premise that exceptional times demand exceptional actions, the urgency to find and develop a vaccine for COVID-19 has fuelled a renewed debate on the ethics of self-experimentation.
In the times of the coronavirus pandemic, the timely development of a vaccine has an immense potential to improve global health. In this context, self-experimentation may be a valuable means to achieve faster pre-research results, which, if promising, could undergo standard vaccine trials.
However, self-experiments may backfire on public trust if done in risky ways. If self-experimentation is conducted without ethical approval, if researchers are put under undue pressure to try vaccines in themselves, or if self-experimenters start distributing vaccines that have not undergone standard trials, the public may lose confidence in science. The potential role of self-experimentation in the search for a vaccine is in urgent need of further clarification.