Kayte Spector-Bagdady, Paul A. Lombardo
The U.S. Public Health Service’s sexually transmitted disease (STD) experiments in Guatemala are an important case study not only in human subjects research transgressions but also in the response to serious lapses in research ethics. This case study describes how individuals in the STD experiments were tested, exposed to STDs, and exploited as the source of biological specimens—all without informed consent and often with active deceit. It also explores and evaluates governmental and professional responses that followed the public revelation of these experiments, including by academic institutions, professional organizations, and the U.S. federal government, pushing us to reconsider both how we prevent such lapses in the future and how we respond when they are first revealed.
SpectorBagdady K, Lombardo PA. U.S. Public Health Service STD Experiments in Guatemala (1946–1948) and Their Aftermath. Ethics & Human Research. 2019 Apr; 41(2): 29-34.
. . While recent scholarship has – for the past two decades – endeavoured to transcend initial reservations about these forms of testimony, the difficulty with some of these memoirs – namely their authors’ implicit complicity in unethical medical research and in the Nazi Holocaust in general – remains however problematic. To address this thorny issue, in this article I consider the memoirs of a Jewish inmate doctor and forensic pathologist who worked with and for SS medical officers in Auschwitz, particularly Josef Mengele. His name was Mikló Nyiszli. . .
Turda M. The ambiguous victim: Miklós Nyiszli’s narrative of medical experimentation in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Historein. 2014; 14(1): 43–58. doi: 10.12681/historein.232
Howard Brody, Sarah E. Leonard, Jing-Bao Nie, Paul Weindling
In 1945–46, representatives of the U.S. government made similar discoveries in both Germany and Japan, unearthing evidence of unethical experiments on human beings that could be viewed as war crimes. The outcomes in the two defeated nations, however, were strikingly different. In Germany, the United States, influenced by the Canadian physician John Thompson, played a key role in bringing Nazi physicians to trial and publicizing their misdeeds. In Japan, the United States played an equally key role in concealing information about the biological warfare experiments and in securing immunity from prosecution for the perpetrators. The greater force of appeals to national security and wartime exigency help to explain these different outcomes.
Brody H, Leonard SE, Nie J-B, Weindling P. U.S. Responses to Japanese Wartime Inhuman Experimentation after World War II: National Security and Wartime Exigency. Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics / Volume 23 / Issue 02 / April 2014, pp 220-230
In a military-sponsored research project begun during the Second World War, inmates of the Stateville Penitentiary in Illinois were infected with malaria and treated with experimental drugs that sometimes had vicious side effects. They were made into reservoirs for the disease and they provided a food supply for the mosquito cultures. They acted as secretaries and technicians, recording data on one another, administering malarious mosquito bites and experimental drugs to one another, and helping decide who was admitted to the project and who became eligible for early parole as a result of his participation. Thus, the prisoners were not simply research subjects; they were deeply constitutive of the research project. Because a prisoner’s time on the project was counted as part of his sentence, and because serving on the project could shorten one’s sentence, the project must be seen as simultaneously serving the functions of research and punishment. Michel Foucault wrote about such ‘mixed mechanisms’ in his Discipline and punish. His shining example of such a ‘transparent’ and subtle style of punishment was the panopticon, Jeremy Bentham’s architectural invention of prison cellblocks arrayed around a central guard tower. Stateville prison was designed on Bentham’s model; Foucault featured it in his own discussion. This paper, then, explores the power relations in this highly idiosyncratic experimental system, in which the various roles of model organism, reagent, and technician are all occupied by sentient beings who move among them fluidly. This, I argue, created an environment in the Stateville hospital wing more panoptic than that in the cellblocks. Research and punishment were completely interpenetrating, and mutually reinforcing.
Comfort N. The prisoner as model organism: malaria research at Stateville Penitentiary. Stud Hist Philos Biol Biomed Sci. 2009;40(3):190-203. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2009.06.007
The Green Committee
Jon M. Harkness
Defense attorneys at the Nuremberg Medical Trial argued that no ethical difference existed between experiments in Nazi Concentration camps and research in U.S. prisons. Investigations that had taken place in an Illinois prison became an early focus of this argument. Andrew C. Ivy, MD, whom the American Medical Association had selected as a consultant to the Nuremeberg prosecutors, responded to courtroom crticisim of research in his home state by encouraging the Illinois governor to establish a committee to evaluate prison research. The governor names a committee and accepted Ivy’s offer to chair the panel. Late in the trial, Ivy testified – drawing on the authority of this committee – that research on Us prisoners was ethically ideal. However, the governor’s committee had never met. After the trial’s conclusion, the report was published in JAMA, where it became a source of support for experimentation on prisoners.
Harkness J. Nuremberg and the Issue of Wartime Experiments on US Prisoners: The Green Committee. JAMA. 1996;276(20):1672–1675. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540200058032