News / Health

US Report Finds Human Research Subjects Enjoy Adequate Protection

A person holds a sign with the date December 23, 1947 next to the wound of a person who had been infected with a venereal disease in the late 1940s in an unknown location in Guatemala, in this undated picture released online in March 2011 by The National
A person holds a sign with the date December 23, 1947 next to the wound of a person who had been infected with a venereal disease in the late 1940s in an unknown location in Guatemala, in this undated picture released online in March 2011 by The National
TEXT SIZE - +
Jessica Berman

A report commissioned by the Obama administration concludes that despite some egregious past abuses, people taking part today in medical tests and clinical trials enjoy adequate legal protections. The report follows the disclosure last year that the U.S. Public Health Service in the 1940s supported unethical research involving inmates at a Guatemalan prison.  

Between 1946 and 1948, U.S. public health officials, hoping to test the effectiveness of the antibiotic penicillin against syphilis, reportedly exposed 1,300 Guatemalan prisoners to the potentially fatal venereal disease. Prostitutes known to be infected with syphilis were sent into jails to have sex with the inmates. Men who did not become sick from these contacts were purposely infected with syphilis, through cuts researchers made on the prisoners' genitals. Eighty-three people died in the experiments.

This little-known research project was brought to light in 2010 by a medical historian at Wellesley College, and reported widely by the news media, including the New York Times. In response to the public furor that ensued, the Obama Administration issued an apology to the Guatamalans affected by the research, and called for a study to determine if current rules and regulations adequately protect human research subjects from similar abuse.

Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, heads the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, which issued its final report on the matter Wednesday.

“The commission is confident that what happened in Guatemala in the 1940s could not happen today," said Gutmann. "We also are confident that there is room for improvement in protecting human subjects from harm, avoidable harm, and unethical treatment.”

In its survey of 18 U.S. government agencies, including the Pentagon, the commission found that few could easily access information on the more than 55,000 human test subjects worldwide currently involved in some kind of medical research.

As a result, the ethics panel recommends more than a dozen changes to current practices to ensure the well-being of those taking part in clinical trials. A key recommendation is that all federal agencies supporting human research abroad must maintain accurate and accessible electronic records of all experiments, including the nature and purpose of the research, the names of the researchers, and the names and locations of all test subjects.

Ross McKinney, director of the Trent Center for Bioethics at Duke University in North Carolina, has lectured on the Guatemala experiments. McKinney, who describes the 1940s syphilis research as “barbaric,” believes it’s highly unlikely that something like that could happen again.

“There are many levels of oversight now that didn’t exist at that point in time," he said. "The entire structure of institutional review boards, IRBs, which independently review research, didn’t exist [in the 1940s]. And now, most countries, most medical centers, require things to have IRB approval, essentially approval by a neutral body that judges the ethics. I don’t think they would let slip something as grotesque as the Guatemalan experiment.”

The bioethics panel also recommends that the U.S. government consider a way to compensate any of the affected Guatemalan prisoners who might still be alive, more than 60 years after the experiments.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid