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Monday, July 13, 2015

How national security gave birth to bioethics

By Jonathan D. Moreno
The Conversation
Originally posted June 8, 2015

Here is an excerpt:

Ironically, while the experiments in Guatemala were going on in the late 1940s, three American judges were hearing the arguments in a war crimes trial in Germany. Twenty-three Nazi doctors and bureaucrats were accused of horrific experiments on people in concentration camps.

The judges decided they needed to make the rules around human experiments clear, so as part of their decision they wrote what has come to be known as the Nuremberg Code. The code states that “the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.”

The Guatemala experiments clearly violated that code. President Obama’s commission found that the US public health officials knew what they were doing was unethical, so they kept it quiet. Years later, one of those doctors had a key role in the infamous syphilis experiments in Tuskegee, Alabama that studied the progression of untreated syphilis. None of the 600 men enrolled in the experiments was told if he had syphilis or not. No one with the disease was offered penicillin, the treatment of choice for syphilis. The 40-year experiment finally ended in 1972.

The entire article is here.

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