Lessons Taught by Miss Evers' Boys: The Inadequacy of Benevolence and the Need for Legal Protection of Human Subjects in Medical Research

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Vol: 15, Issue: 2, Page: 147

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Hermann, Donald H.J.
medical research; human subjects; regulatory law; ethics; research subjects; Medical Jurisprudence
article description
The Tuskegee study is perhaps the most notorious example of abuse in medical research in the United States. It is significant that the project was not ended until twenty-five years after the adoption of the Nuremberg Code of 1948, the first article of which establishes its principle that human subjects should not be experimented on without their consent. Continuing concern about the ethics of medical and scientific research have been fueled by finding about other research abuse such as the radiation experiments in the 1940's and 1950's that involved subjects being injected with plutonium without their knowledge and feeding radioactive oatmeal to retarded children. Other projects involving withholding of medicine from schizophrenics suggest the need to give additional attention to the projection of vulnerable subjects. A halt in gene-therapy research following the allegation of inadequate reporting of adverse reactions in research subjects has roused anew issues about the adequacy of the informed consent obtained from patients and the sufficiency of government monitoring of medical research. The film Miss Evers' Boys confronts the viewer with the need for continued regulation and policing of medical and scientific research by adequate laws affecting administration by effective and vigilant independent government agencies. Miss Evers' Boys serves as a significant reminder of the inadequacy of benevolence as a restraint on abuse by scientists, and of the need for legal protection of human subjects in medical research.