Investigation: Ethics Violations in Health Experiments

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This week, a presidential bioethics committee met to discuss one of the most shocking violations of medical ethics — a clinical study done back in the 1970s on nearly 400 African American men in Tuskegee Alabama to study the progression of syphilis. The men believed they were receiving free health care from the US government. But just days before the committee met, a new comprehensive investigation by the Associated Press found that for decades, the United States government also knew about and authorized medical experiments on disabled people and prison inmates. Experiments included injecting cancer cells into the chronically ill at a New York hospital and giving hepatitis to mental patients in Connecticut.

Arthur Caplan, Professor of Bioethics at University of Pennsylvania, says it is unethical to make a healthy person sick, even in the name of national security. 

Laura Stark is an assistant professor of science in society at Wesleyan University and author of the upcoming book, to be released in November by the University of Chicago Press, “Behind Closed Doors: I.R.Bs and the Making of Ethical Research" a study of the history and the present-day practices of ethics review boards in medical research.