1950's Medical Research on Bowery Alcoholics Seen as Unethical

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doctors prepping for surgery

A 1950's cancer study that used down-and-out men on the Bowery as subjects has now been deemed unethical by medical researchers.  The New York Times reports a Columbia University medical researcher promised the men a warm bed and food in exchange for surgical biopsies of their prostates, but did not carefully warn them of potential risks.

"This is a time when ethics were really different," said Times reporter Gina Kolata. "Everybody admitted that there was no way private patients would ever go for this but that was at a time when people were often doing experiments with institutionalized children, with prisoners, with homeless people, and it seems unbelievable...but at that time people told me it was a different era."

To hear a complete interview with Gina Kolata click audio above.