|Human Subjects||Chronology of Cases Involving Unethical Treatment of Human Subjects|
During World War II, Nazi researchers, many of whom were highly esteemed physicians, conducted inhumane experiments on concentration camp prisoners -- men, women, and children. Subjects were deliberately mutilated and systematically dissected as part of experiments that included the deliberate infliction of gunshot wounds, traumatic amputations without anesthesia, limb and bone transplants, exposure to biological and chemical agents, sterilization, and exposure to sub-freezing temperatures. No attempt was made to relieve the tremendous pain and suffering that resulted, and high mortality rates were tolerated. The atrocities, many of which were conducted “in the name of science,” came to light during the 1946 Nazi Doctors Trial in Nuremberg (United States v. Karl Brandt).
Tuskegee Syphilis Study
At the beginning of the 1900's, syphilis was a problem for the military and was also at epidemic levels in areas of the rural South. The treatment at that time was toxic and involved the use of poisonous substances such as mercury and arsenic. Severe reactions, including death, were not uncommon. The United States Public Health Service (PHS) was interested in finding new methods to treat and understand the disease.
In 1932, PHS initiated
the Tuskegee Syphilis Study to document the natural history of syphilis.
The research subjects were 399 poor African American male sharecroppers
from Macon County, Alabama, with latent syphilis and 201 men without the
disease who served as controls. Researchers did not disclose the nature
of the study to the participants (no informed consent); subjects were
deceived by investigators as they were told that they were being treated
for "bad blood." In addition, subjects were coerced to participate
through inducements of free transportation, free meals, free medical treatment
for minor ailments, and burial insurance. Subjects were given a thorough
medical exam and were to be followed for six to eight months during which
time their disease would not be treated. Initially, there was no intent
to deny anyone treatment on a long-term basis.
Wichita Jury Bugging
In the 1950s, a series of studies conducted on a Ford Foundation grant by University of Chicago researchers involved the taping of jury deliberations in criminal cases to study how juries made decisions. The study was in response to concerns that juries were being unduly influenced by showmanship rather than the facts of the case. Though the judge and the attorneys involved were aware of the taping, the juries were not informed as researchers believed it would affect their behavior.
Milgram Obedience Study
Social psychology researcher Stanley Milgram wondered why defendant after defendant at the Nuremberg Trials justified their unethical actions by saying they were just following orders. Thus, he executed a series of experiments at Yale in the early 1960s to find out when and how people would defy authority in the face of a clear moral imperative. Milgram recruited subjects using deception; he called the experiments “a study of learning and memory,” though really he was studying conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority. In these experiments, naïve subjects believed they were applying punishment to a "learner" in the form of escalating electric shocks in response to incorrect answers to word-pair matching questions. In reality, the “learner” was a confederate in the study and was not being shocked. At the end of the session the "deception" was revealed, but the study was criticized for the extreme psychological stress experienced by some of the subjects, and for the fact that, due to the deceptive nature of the study, informed consent was not obtained.
Tearoom Trade Study
In this study, conducted in the mid-1960s, a researcher wanted to study the motivations of men who have anonymous sex in public restrooms. He befriended the men by acting as a “lookout” for them. He then proceeded to identify some of the participants by tracing their car license plates, and disguising himself as a healthcare worker, visited them at home.
Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital
In 1963, chronically ill and debilitated non-cancer patients at the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in New York were injected with live human cancer cells . Physicians did not inform the patients so as not to scare them, since it was believed that the cells would be rejected.
Willowbrook State School
Between 1963 and 1966
at the Willowbrook State School, a New York State institution for mentally
retarded children, residents were deliberately infected with the hepatitis
virus.The study was intended to follow the course of viral hepatitis, and to study the effectiveness of an agent for inoculating against hepatitis.
Consent was obtained from parents, but the procedures were presented as
vaccinations. In addition, there is evidence that only children enrolled
in the study were admitted to the school (coercion).
The Stanford Prison Experiment was a psychological study conducted at Stanford University in 1971. The planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated. In only a few days, subjects acting as guards became sadistic, and subjects playing the role of prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme psychological stress.
Gene Therapy Study at University of Pennsylvania
In the September 1999, Jesse Gelsinger died while a participant in a gene therapy research study at the University of Pennsylvania. After his death, information divulged led Jesse's father to believe that Jesse and his family were not fully informed of the risks involved in the research.
Death of a Health Volunteer at Johns Hopkins
On May 4, 2001, a
24 year old healthy female employee at Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy
Center inhaled hexamethonium as a volunteer in a research study.