Thom talks about an open white supremacist associated with the Donald Trump campaign and asks whether these are the types of people the Republican nominee will appoint if he wins the election. (Thom Hartmann Show)
Australian bioethicist Rob Sparrow has written extensively on topics ranging from political philosophy and minority rights to the ethics of war, robot ethics and even the ethics of nanotechnology. Yet he is arguably best known for his work in bioethics. While in one sense part of a mainstream bioethics academy, Professor Sparrow often provides a refreshingly unique perspective and challenges establishment opinions in the field. As Richard R. Sharp has noted, “Sparrow’s scholarship exemplifies the value of the intellectual gadfly – even when that work ruffles a few feathers among the bioethical elite.”
In the following interview Professor Sparrow and BioEdge’s Xavier Symons discuss current controversies in bioethics and, in particular, questions surrounding genetic diversity, the elimination of disability, and the so-called new eugenics.
Pope Francis has made a stinging, if familiar, attack on the bioethics of a consumer society in an address in Rome. He decried the tendency to search for the perfect body and to warehouse the disabled out of sight to avoid offending the sensibilities of the “privileged few”.
In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model.
Such persons should best be kept apart, in some “enclosure” – even a gilded one – or in “islands” of pietism or social welfare, so that they do not hold back the pace of a false well-being. In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis.
Yet what an illusion it is when people today shut their eyes in the face of sickness and disability! They fail to understand the real meaning of life, which also has to do with accepting suffering and limitations.
The world does not become better because only apparently “perfect” people live there – I say “perfect” rather than “false” – but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.
‘In 1968, Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich predicted hundreds of millions would starve to death over the next decade, many of them Americans, and the world would generally decline into chaos in his book The Population Bomb.
A retrospective on Ehrlich’s forecast is the subject of a new “Retro Report” in The New York Times. A 12-minute video feature produced by Sarah Weiser with support from the Pulitzer Center is accompanied by a column from Clyde Haberman.
“I do not think my language was too apocalyptic in The Population Bomb,” Ehrlich says in an interview, “my language would be even more apocalyptic today.” His basic premise remains true, he says: “We have a finite planet with finite resources and in such a system you can’t have infinite population growth.”
“I was trying to bring people to get something done,” he says, and he still sees humanity’s dominance over the natural world as a danger to our own life-support system.
But things have changed since The Population Bomb was published almost 50 years ago. Population growth has not continued unabated and in most parts of the world has slowed to at or below replacement level.
One aspect of the story that is somewhat glossed over but helps explain these changes is about rights.’
- The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion
- Political Population Poppycock, and the Ethics of Misinformation
- Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb Argument Was Right
- The Infamous 1968 ‘Population Bomb’ Doomsayer Still Stands by His Claim
- The Bleak Science Bankrolled by the Pentagon
- NASA-funded study: industrial civilisation headed for ‘irreversible collapse’?
- Paul Ehrlich: ‘Nobody Has The Right to Have 12 Children – Or Even 3’
- Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown
- Ehrlich: We Must Change Behavior to Save Global Culture
- Astonishing falls in the fertility rate are bringing with them big benefits
- Overpopulation – RationalWiki
- The Population Bomb – Wikipedia
- Paul R. Ehrlich – Wikipedia
‘The long-drawn-out case of a woman who asked for euthanasia in 2012 may eventually reach a criminal court in Belgium. The European Court of Human Rights wants a Belgian court to hear allegations that there were serious irregularities in the euthanasis of Godelieva De Troyer by Dr Wim Distelmans.
Ms De Troyer’s son, Tom Mortier, a university lecturer, claims that her own doctor denied his mother’s request for euthanasia because she was depressed. However, Dr Distelmans, who had no psychiatric expertise, readily agreed. Ms De Troyer made a 2,500 Euro donation to Dr Distelman’s Life End Information Forum, which suggests that there may have been a conflict of interest.
Ms De Troyer’s death was just one of 1,432 registered euthanasia deaths in Belgium in 2012. But a careful examination of the details of the case in America’s foremost literary magazine, The New Yorker, this week raises serious doubts about the wisdom of legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia in the United States and elsewhere. It is essential reading for anyone interested in end-of-life issues.’
‘Dr Tony Perry, a pioneer in cloning, has announced precise DNA editing at the moment of conception in mice.
He said huge advances in the past two years meant “designer babies” were no longer HG Wells territory.
Other leading scientists and bioethicists argue it is time for a serious public debate on the issue.’
- Designer baby – Wikipedia
- Rules for babies ‘from three people’
- ‘Designer’ Babies Are Only for the Rich
- We’re Already Designing Babies
- Children to Order: The Ethics of ‘Designer Babies’
- Designer babies? It looks like racism and eugenics to me
- Science’s Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2013: Human Cloning At Last
‘About 70 people accompanied Belgian euthanasia doctor Wim Distelmans on his tour of Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp in German-occupied Poland, last month. The German magazine Der Spiegel ran a long, reflective feature which attempted to explain why he dared to link euthanasia to Nazi atrocities.
The tour was highly controversial. In Antwerp ultraorthodox Jews were outraged that Dr Distelmans had described Auschwitz as “an inspiring venue”. They called him “a professional killer”. The deputy director of the Auschwitz memorial commented: “We feel that the attempt to link the history of Auschwitz with the current debate about euthanasia is inappropriate.”
Distelmans was not deterred by the protests. His point was that the Nazis violated autonomy while he esteems it. He is killing patients out of humility and love. “What does this mean to us?”, Distelmans asked the tour group.’
After hibernating for 60 years, eugenics is making a comeback, both in academic and popular spheres. Nazi enthusiasm for eugenics, as well as sterilisation campaigns throughout the Western world in the 1920s and 1930s, gave eugenics a bad name. However, In the Huffington Post recently, Joe Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project made the case for Eugenics 2.0:
“Modern eugenic aspirations are not about the draconian top-down measures promoted by the Nazis and their ilk. Instead of being driven by a desire to “improve” the species, new eugenics is driven by our personal desire to be as healthy, intelligent and fit as possible–and for the opportunity of our children to be so as well. And that’s not something that should be restricted lightly.”
- Let’s (Cautiously) Celebrate the “New Eugenics”
- Is there a moral obligation to select healthy children?
- Berlin opens memorial to euthanasia victims
- Nobody is better at being human, Professor Dawkins, least of all you
- New technique could lead to “risky eugenics”, says IVF pioneer
- Bioethicist Julian Savulescu: We have a moral obligation to increase the intelligence of our children
- Calls for Virginia to compensate sterilization victims
- Euthanasia could save us money, says Nitschke
- Female inmates sterilized in California prisons without approval
- Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America (Book Review)
- War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (Book)
- Interview with Edwin Black, author of ‘War Against the Weak’
- Edwin Black Talk: War on the Weak
- Wikipedia article on the history of eugenics
‘How outrageous, how heartbreaking, how truly grotesque! Windhoek City – the capital of Namibia – is, at one extreme full of flowers and Mediterranean-style villas, and at the other, it is nothing more than a tremendous slum without water or electricity.
And in between, there is the town center– with its Germanic orderly feel, boasting ‘colonial architecture’, including Protestant churches and commemorative plaques mourning those brave German men, women and children, those martyrs, who died during the uprisings and wars conducted by local indigenous people.
The most divisive and absurd of those memorials is the so-called “Equestrian Monument”, more commonly known as “The Horse” or under its German original names, Reiterdenkmal and Südwester Reiter (Rider of South-West). It is a statue inaugurated on 27 January 1912, which was the birthday of the German emperor Wilhelm II. The monument “honors the soldiers and civilians that died on the German side of the Herero and Namaqua ‘War’ of 1904–1907’”.
That ‘war’ was not really a war; it was nothing more than genocide, a holocaust.
And Namibia was a prelude to what German Nazis later tried to implement on European soil.’
- Namibia: Genocide and the Second Reich (Documentary)
- Namibia Scraps German Place Names
- Memories of genocide at the hands of Germany fuels radicalism in Namibia
- Namibia crowds welcome colonial-era skulls from Germany
- Remembering German crimes in Namibia
- How Namibia’s Liberator Turned Into Its Oppressor (Documentary)
- Herero and Namaqua Genocide
‘Former state Sen. Russell Pearce (R) resigned his position as first vice chair of the Arizona Republican Party late on Sunday evening amid criticism of comments he made on his radio show about women on welfare.
[…] His ideas are far from being on the fringe. They in fact help inform our policies. The Nixon administration pushed through funding for serializations in the 1970s aimed mostly a low-income people, usually women of color, and many were done involuntarily. And while it may sound like long-ago history, the practice of sterilizing low-income women hasn’t been entirely done away with. Between 2005 and 2013, 39 tubal ligations were given to women in California’s prison system without full consent. The majority of those were performed by Dr. James Heinrich, who has said of the practice, “Over a ten-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children — as they procreated more.” The state is now considering banning inmate sterilization.’
‘A memorial to the 300,000 victims of Nazi euthanasia programs was opened in Berlin this week. It is striking piece of modern architecture: a 30-metre-long wall of blue glass in the open air near the Berlin Philharmonic.
[…] The regime had several methods of killing the mentally and physically disabled: starvation, lethal injections or chambers filled with carbon monoxide gas. The so-called T4 program became a trial run for the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other death camps. About 70,000 of the deaths occurred at the program’s headquarters at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin, thus giving the program its name, Aktion T4.’
‘[…] To be absolutely clear: Down’s syndrome is not hereditary. So it cannot be bred out. So the belief that it is immoral to keep a Down’s syndrome child is not strictly a eugenic position. But the moral revulsion that we have at eugenics has little to do with genetics and everything to do with the way it treats the most vulnerable. For the problem with eugenics, like Dawkins’s belief that it is immoral to keep a baby with Down’s syndrome, is that it contains an implicit idea of what a better sort of human being might look like. It may seem obvious to Professor Dawkins that a tall athletic child with straight As at school is to be preferred to, let’s say, a child who has slanted eyes and a flat nasal bridge and is academically less adept, but it is not obvious to me. Morally, the category of the human ought to be entirely indivisible: all being of equal worth, irrespective of wealth, colour, class, ability. Some people are better at sport or sums, but nobody is better at being human, neither are there better sorts of human beings.’
- Richard Dawkins apologises for causing storm with Down’s syndrome tweet
- Dawkins disses Down syndrome babies
- Richard Dawkins on Eugenics in 2012
- War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race (Book)
- The Political Gene: How Darwin’s Ideas Changed Politics (Book)
- How eugenics poisoned the welfare state
- Eugenics: the skeleton that rattles loudest in the left’s closet
- Marie Stopes: a turbo-Darwinist ranter, but right about birth control
The Politics of the Ebola Serum & The History of Medical Exploitation in Africa: Interview with Harriet Washington
Editor’s Note: Harriet Washington is a medical ethicist. She is the author of “Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future” and “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present“.
‘Although bioethicists are believed to provide fearless independent advice, challenging policy-makers to make the “right” decisions, a Swiss expert in bureaucracies contends that this is often not the case. Writing in the journal Governance, Annabelle Littoz-Monnet, of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, contends that bureaucrats use ethical experts to get their own way when they have to deal with controversies like GM foods or embryonic stem cell research.’
‘Britain’s leading fertility doctor, Lord Robert Winston, has warned that his recent research could open the door to “risky” eugenics programs.
Lord Winston, who developed preimplantation genetic diagnosis, and his colleagues have developed a technique to splice genes into sperm, thus making it far easier to modify the genetic make-up of embryos. His focus is creating genetically modified pigs whose organs could be transplanted into humans without being rejected.
However, he told the Cheltenham Science Festival this week that it will be a far easier way to create “designer babies” because it would not be necessary to manipulate embryos. Only artificial insemination would be needed.’
‘Another challenge to be faced by bioethics in the decades ahead is the downstream consequences of falling birth rates. Once fertility begins to fall, it keeps falling to levels which once seemed (sorry) inconceivable. The replacement birth rate is 2.1 children per woman. But in South Korea, parts of Spain, and Russia it has fallen below 1.3. At that rate, population begins to decline fairly rapidly. A small population could have big political consequences.
This worries the leaders of Iran. The birth rate in Iran has fallen more swiftly than anywhere else in the world – from 6.4 in 1986 to a current low of 1.8. When they look into their crystal ball, they see a weak and depopulated nation. This is why the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, recently released a 14-point plan to reverse decades of propaganda for small families and double his country’s population to 150 million. His proposals include: increasing the birth rate to more than 2.3; lowering the age of marriage; an Islamic-Iranian lifestyle and opposing undesirable aspects of the Western lifestyle; and providing treatment for both male and female infertility.’
‘The head of Belgium’s euthanasia oversight commission, Dr Wim Distelmans, will lead a study tour of Auschwitz in October. Since Dr Distelmans is also Belgium’s leading promoter of euthanasia and its leading practitioner, the tour has already generated some criticism.
Dr Distelmans explains in a brochure that Auschwitz is a symbol of everything that Belgian euthanasia is not: “This site is an inspiring venue for organizing a seminar and reflecting on these issues so that we can consider and clarify confusions.” However, euthanasia opponents have described the initiative as “shocking”.’
‘Lord Robert Winston, British IVF pioneer, has given a controversial speech warning of the development of eugenics in the IVF industry. In his keynote address at a major IVF conference at the UK, Lord Winston argued that new pre-implantation genetic screening technologies will allow wealthy parents to select for traits like enhanced intelligence, musical ability, and strength.
The 73-year-old added that a growing market for fertility treatments and pressure to enhance human qualities could mean we ‘end up with a society where some people may actually have something that might threaten our humanity’. Lord Winston himself pioneered a form of pre-implantion genetic screening that allowed parents to screen embryos for gender.’
An American businesswoman and an Ivy League scientist have teamed up to create a sophisticated service for reducing genetic diseases for lesbian couples and single women. Anne Morriss and Lee Silver, of Princeton, have founded
Genepeeks, a company which will identify the sperm donors who have the best chance of producing a disease-free baby. Using Silver’s patented gene analysis technology, Matchright, Genepeeks will create “virtual babies” for the woman and a range of possible sperm donors and screen out donors with a flawed genetic profile. Matchright screens for hundreds of diseases, but also other features, like eye colour and height. Morriss and Silver insist, however, that the technology will not be used to create genetically engineered children.
However, Silver, the author of pop science books like Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family (1998) andChallenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life (2006) is an apostle of genetic engineering and even human cloning.
Genepeeks will have to be prepared for stiff opposition.
Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, in California, told BBC News that its service was “highly irresponsible”.
“It amounts to shopping for designer donors in an effort to produce designer babies. We believe the patent office made a serious mistake in allowing a patent that includes drop-down menus for which to choose a future child’s traits. A project like this would also be ethically and socially treacherous.”
Bioethicist Julian Savulescu: We have a moral obligation to increase the intelligence of our children
Oxford bioethicist Julian Savulescu has again sparked controversy, this time advocating for the genetic screening of embryos and foetuses for intelligence genes.
In article published Wednesday in The Conversation, Savulescu referred to new research that identified specific genetic factors that contribute to low intelligence. A recent study, conducted by researchers from Cardiff University, showed that children with two copies of a common gene (Thr92Ala), together with low levels of thyroid hormone are four times more likely to have a low IQ.
… Accusations of eugenics have been leveled at Savulescu in the past, and this article is likely to garner similar responses. This most recent piece forms part of Savulescu’s growing corpus of articles advocating for human enhancement.
As Quebec debates the legalisation of euthanasia, Canadian bioethicist Udo Schuklenk, who is also the co-editor of the prestigious journal Bioethics, has argued in a newspaper column that suicide by depressed people may sometimes be rational. Schuklenk claims that in cases where depression is severe and untreatable by medication it might be reasonable for a sufferer to commit suicide:
“When do people decide to commit suicide? Surely for many this occurs when they consider their lives not worth living any longer and when they don’t see a realistic chance that their lives will improve in such a way that they will be worth living again. If that’s correct, at least for some people with depression suicide is a rational response to their suffering.”
About half of American adults believe in at least one medical conspiracy theory, according to new survey results. Some conspiracy theories have much more traction than others, however. For example, three times as many people believe U.S. regulators prevent people from getting natural cures as believe that a U.S. spy agency infected a large number of African Americans with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
J. Eric Oliver, the study’s lead author from University of Chicago, said people may believe in conspiracy theories because they’re easier to understand than complex medical information… For the new study, he and his colleague used data from 1,351 adults who answered an online survey between August and September 2013. The data were then weighted to represent the U.S. population. The participants read six popular medical conspiracy theories and then indicated whether they had heard of them and whether they agreed or disagreed with them.
The controversy over three-parent embryos could soon be old hat. Writing in one of the world’s leading journals, one of Britain’s best-known bioethicists has outlined a strategy for creating children with four or more genetic parents. He calls it “multiplex parenting”.
John Harris, of the University of Manchester, and two colleagues, César Palacios-González and Giuseppe Testa contend in the Journal of Medical Ethics (free online) that this is one of many exciting consequences of using stem cells to create synthetic eggs and sperm. (Or as they prefer to call them, in vitro generated gametes (IVG).)
After the discovery of induced pluripotent stem cells in 2007, theoretically any cell in the body can be created from something as simple as a skin cell. Mice have already been born from sperm and eggs created from stem cells. Harris and his colleagues believe that the day is not far off when scientists will be able to do the same with humans. In their paper, they spin an ethical justification for this and outline some possible uses.
An Indian doctor cum businesswoman is looking to build the world’s biggest ‘baby factory’, a 110 bed hospital focused specifically on infertility treatment and surrogacy. Dr. Nayna Patel, who currently runs a large but poorly equipped surrogacy clinic, wants to provide a one-stop-shop for surrogate mothers and biological parents.
The hospital, to be commissioned in February next year, will be spread over four acres, with special dormitories to accommodate surrogate mothers, 25 rooms for IVF patients, 15 neo-natal ICUs and 40 special rooms for couples. The estimated cost is $8 million USD.
Dr. Patel wants the hospital to be a “family nest”, where biological parents, surrogate mothers and neo-natal children all live together as an integrated family. Patel intends for the hospital to be staffed largely by relatives and friends of the surrogates, so as to “improve the overall family atmosphere”.
All of contemporary bioethics springs from the Nuremberg Doctors Trial in 1947. Seven Nazi doctors and officials were hanged and nine received severe prison sentences for performing experiments on an estimated 25,000 prisoners in concentration camps without their consent. Only about 1,200 died but many were maimed and psychologically scarred.
So did the US do to the hundreds of Japanese medical personnel who experimented on Chinese civilians and prisoners of war of many nationalities, including Chinese, Koreans, Russians, Australians, and Americans? They killed an estimated 3,000 people in the infamous Unit 731 in Harbin, in northeastern China before and during World War II – plus tens of thousands of civilians when they field-tested germ warfare. Many of the doctors were academics from Japan’s leading medical schools.
Well, almost nothing. Twelve doctors were tried and found guilty by the Soviets in the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials in 1949, but they were all repatriated in 1956. American authorities dismissed the trials as Soviet propaganda. Many of the doctors in Unit 731 went on to successful careers in Japan after the War. The commander of the unit, Shirō Ishii, lived in relative obscurity but his successor late in the war, Kitano Masaji, became head of one of Japan’s leading pharmaceutical companies.
How did the Japanese doctors escape justice?
A fascinating answer appears in the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics. The broad outline of the story has been well documented, even if it is not widely known. To cut a long story short, the Americans struck a deal with the doctors. They traded immunity from prosecution for access to scientific information from the ghastly Japanese experiments – many of which are too grim to detail here. (If you have the stomach for it, a remorseful doctor describes, at the age of 90, some of his vivisection experiments in an article in the Japan Times.)
On February 25 and 26 the US Food and Drug Administration will discuss the possibility of legalising three-parent embryos – or, in scientific lingo, “oocyte modification in assisted reproduction for the prevention of transmission of mitochondrial disease or treatment of infertility”.
This procedure, which involves removing the nucleus from one human egg whose cytoplasm contains defective mitochondria and placing it in an enucleated egg with healthy DNA for subsequent fertilisation, is also being debated in the UK.
The measure is strongly opposed by the Center for Genetics and Society, which is promoting an open letter to the FDA. It claims that mitochondrial transfer is unsafe, is effectively experimentation on unconsenting human subjects, and would only help a handful of women. Most importantly, it constitutes germline modification, a form of eugenics. This is a bright line which no country has ever stepped across.
We strongly believe that clinical trials … should not be permitted because of the profound safety, efficacy, policy and social problems they would pose. We question the ethics of bringing children into existence by experimental techniques that have had developmentally poor outcomes in studies using both animal and human oocytes. We are also concerned about the contravention of widespread prohibitions against human germline genetic modification that approval of clinical trials would represent, and about the possible precedent such approval could set for additional human germline modifications.
A bill permitting euthanasia for children has passed the lower house of the Belgian Parliament by a vote of 86 to 44, with 12 abstentions. The parties gave their members a free vote on the controversial issue. It will become law when King Philippe gives royal assent. This will make Belgium the only country in the world which allows euthanasia without an age limit. This has come only 12 years after it was first legalised. Neighbouring Netherlands also allows euthanasia for children, but only up to the age of 12.
Supporters of the bill insist that it is safe and that there will only be a handful of cases each year. The child must be suffering from a terminal illness, with “constant and unbearable suffering”. He or she must demonstrate a “capacity of discernment”. Can an eight-year-old give informed consent to a lethal injection? Yes, they say, because youngsters in this situation often display a maturity beyond their years.
“This is an act of humanity that allows the doctor to make the most humane course of action for his patient,” said Philippe Mahoux, a doctor and Socialist Party senator who sponsored the legislation. “What is scandalous is the suffering of sick children when they are going to die.” Opponents are not convinced that children are capable of making a mature decision on such a momentous matter. British barrister Charles Foster commented late last year: “children could easily think, or be actively or unconsciously persuaded, that they should opt for death because their illness causes trouble for their parents.”
Pressure is mounting on legislators in Virginia to compensate victims of its forced sterilization policy in the early years of the last century. The neighboring state of North Carolina this year approved a $10 million compensation fund for surviving victims. Two Virginian delegates, from opposite sides of the political spectrum, are now calling on their legislature to act.
Republican Bob Marshall and Democrat Patrick Hope told reporters on Monday that they would move a bill next year to recompense survivors.
“You’re not going to ever come close to compensating for their loss,” said Hope. But, he added, it’s a first step toward healing.
“It’s horrible that we participated in this and became an example for the Third Reich,” Marshall said.
The Indian surrogacy industry keeps tweaking its product line to keep up with the market. The latest trend to emerge in the media is twiblings – children born at the same time to two surrogate mothers.
The BBC reports that a 35-year-old man and his 36-year-old wife went to India after a long struggle with infertility. They commissioned “twiblings” at the Corion clinic in Mumbai, but each of the women became pregnant with twins. So they will be taking home four children instead of two. The couple said that they would not contemplate foetal reduction (reducing the number of foetuses by selective abortion).
The unnamed couple say that they are grateful to the two women, but they do not intend to meet them. “She’s doing a job for us, how often do you communicate with your builder or your gardener? “She’ll get paid… we don’t need to see her. As long as she’s healthy and delivers my babies healthily, she’s done a job for us,” says the wife.
“Twiblings” would not be allowed in the UK, according to surrogacy lawyer Natalie Gamble. “Under the regulation of licensed fertility clinics, there are quite strict rules about how many embryos can be transferred and certainly you couldn’t transfer embryos to two surrogates in the same cycle,” she says.
Here’s a familiar script: medical researchers in the 1950s in a democratic country conduct forgotten experiments which yield no useful data on a vulnerable population. This week’s revelation comes from New York’s skid row, the Bowery. An oncologist from Columbia University recruited alcoholics for his study of prostate cancer by offering them three square meals, a clean bed and free medical treatment if they had cancer. In return they agreed to have a medical biopsy.
What the men were not told was that the biopsy could cause impotence and rectal tears and that treatment would probably involve removal of the prostate and testicles – but would not necessarily prolong their lives. “The failure to provide full informed consent and exposing a vulnerable population to undue risk—are disturbing. Yet the [research was] published in leading medical journals and frequently cited, joining the long list of unethical studies performed in full public view,” says Robert Aronowitz, the author of a highly critical essay in the American Journal of Public Health.