Monday, September 7, 2015

The Rationalization of Unethical Research: Revisionist Accounts of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the New Zealand “Unfortunate Experiment”

If you happen to have access to a university library, this excellent article from the University of Otago is well worth reading.  Here's the abstract.

Two studies, widely condemned in the 1970s and 1980s—the Tuskegee study of men with untreated syphilis and the New Zealand study of women with untreated carcinoma in situ of the cervix—received new defenses in the 21st century. 

We noted remarkable similarities in both the studies and their defenses. Here we evaluate the scientific, political, and moral claims of the defenders. 

The scientific claims are largely based on incomplete or misinterpreted evidence and exaggeration of the uncertainties of science. The defenders’ political arguments mistakenly claim that identity politics clouded the original critiques; in fact such politics opened the eyes of the public to exploitation. The moral defenses demonstrate an overreliance on codes of conduct and have implications for research ethics today. 

Citation: Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print August 13, 2015: e1–e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2015.302720)

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