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
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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid