Joan Rachlin’s Tribute to Charles McCarthy

Charles McCarthy Award 1In conjunction with PRIM&R’s December 2003 presentation to Dr. Charles McCarthy of its Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Research Ethics, the Board of Directors thought it would be fitting to gather and compile Dr. McCarthy’s writings. Dr. McCarthy was only the second recipient of that Award, which honors those who have, over an extended period of time, made a major contribution to the ethics that govern research. Such a “major contribution” could include scholarship, administration, and/or leadership. Dr. McCarthy’s contributions include all three.

Dr. McCarthy has dedicated his professional life to the protection of human and animal subjects, and has done so with distinction and unparalleled commitment. As the longest serving Director of the Office for Protection from Research Risks (OPRR), he played a seminal role in the development of sound and reasoned regulations and guidelines for IRB operations. The continued responsiveness of OPRR to the changing environment of human subjects research was due in large part to his initiatives.

When Dr. McCarthy retired from OPRR, PRIM&R elected him to its board of directors, recognizing the contribution he would make to our work. As anticipated, Charlie has become crucial to almost everything we have done by serving as an officer, by chairing our key committees, and by continuing to contribute to PRIM&R meetings as keynote speaker, panelist, and workshop leader. He has worked tirelessly, not only with us, but also with Virginia Commonwealth University, where his leadership on IRB issues has been similarly invaluable.

Charlie’s (no one else in the research ethics field is known by only one name!) singular and enormous contributions to our shared work have left an indelible, and indelibly constructive, mark on every aspect of an IRB’s and IACUC’s work. His wisdom, common sense, fairness, and reservoir of compassion have all made the difference between the mere development of a field and the establishment of a noble calling to protect those who participate as subjects of research.

Charlie has been a peacemaker, a bridge builder, and a mentor to so many of us. Both his teaching and his example have helped IRBs, IACUCs, regulators, institutional officials, subject advocates, ethicists, industry representatives, journalists, attorneys, and all others who are stakeholders in the research protection enterprise.

We are therefore proud to share this anthology of Charlie’s writings as a tribute to, and in gratitude for, his life and his work. Also between these pages is our everlasting respect and admiration for Charlie’s monumental contribution to the field of research ethics.

Joan Rachlin, JD, MPH
Executive Director
December 6, 2003