By Henry S. Richardson
Oxford University Press Blog
Originally posted on October 20, 2013
Scholarly and regulatory attention to the ethics of medical research on human subjects has been one-sidedly focused on the prevention of moral disasters. Scandals such the US Public Health Service (PHS)’s Tuskegee syphilis experiments, which for decades observed the effects of untreated syphilis on the participants, most of whom were poor black sharecroppers, rightly spurred the broad establishment of a regulatory regime that emphasized the importance of preventing such severe harming and exploitation of the human subjects of research. Revelations in 2011 about a similarly horrific set of studies conducted by the PHS from 1946 to 1948 on sexually transmitted diseases has renewed this kind of concern, which has been strongly underlined in a recent report by the Presidential Commission for the Study of Ethical Issues.
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