Clinical research requires multiple layers of protection for each patient. First and foremost, research is never conducted to confirm a medical guess. In fact, no one in the United States is allowed to perform clinical research without FDA approval. The FDA only approves a proposed trial that provides a substantial body of evidence supporting why it should be conducted and proves the research will maximize patient safety.
Once a study earns FDA approval, it then requires third-party ethics board approval from a US-based institutional review board (IRB). These groups have ultimate ability to approve or deny a research trial. To ensure the ethics board is completely independent and focused on protecting the participant, no one with a vested interest in the research can sit on an IRB or vote on the ethics of the trial.
An additional third-party group called the Data Safety Monitoring Board oversees research data as it’s being collected. They have the ability to stop a trial at any point if data doesn’t support continuing.
Bottom line, if you enter research trial you are not a guinea pig. In fact, you are cherished as a medical hero. You are cared for and protected better than would ever happen in normal medical care.