The prisoner as model organism: malaria research at Stateville Penitentiary

Nathaniel Comfort

The prisoner as model organism: malaria research at Stateville Penitentiary

Abstract

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

Healthcare responsibilities and conscientious objection

Rebecca J. Cook, Monica Arango Olaya, Bernard M. Dickens

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics

Abstract: The Constitutional Court of Colombia has issued a decision of international significance clarifying legal duties of providers,hospitals, and healthcare systems when conscientious objection is made to conducting lawful abortion. The decision establishes objecting providers’duties to refer patients to non-objecting providers, and that hospitals,clinics, and other institutions have no rights of conscientious objection. Their professional and legal duties are to ensure that patients receive timely services. Hospitals and other administrators cannot object, because they do not participate in the procedures they are obliged to arrange. Objecting providers, and hospitals, must maintain knowledge of non-objecting providers to whom their patients must be referred. Accordingly, medical schools must adequately train, and licensing authorities approve, non-objecting providers. Where they are unavailable, midwives and perhaps nurse practitioners may be trained, equipped, and approved for appropriate service delivery. The Court’s decision has widespread implications for how healthcare systems must accommodate conscientious objection and patients’ legal rights.


Cook RJ, Olaya MA, Dickens BM. Healthcare responsibilities and conscientious objection. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009 Mar;104(3):249-52. Epub 2008 Nov 29.

Legal protection and limits of conscientious objection: when conscientious objection is unethical

Bernard M. Dickens

Medicine and Law

Abstract: The right to conscientious objection is founded on human rights to act according to individuals’ religious and other conscience. Domestic and international human rights laws recognize such entitlements. Healthcare providers cannot be discriminated against, for instance in employment, on the basis of their beliefs. They are required, however, to be equally respectful of rights to conscience of patients and potential patients. They cannot invoke their human rights to violate the human rights of others. There are legal limits to conscientious objection. Laws in some jurisdictions unethically abuse religious conscience by granting excessive rights to refuse care. In general, healthcare providers owe duties of care to patients that may conflict with their refusal of care on grounds of conscience. The reconciliation of patients’ rights to care and providers’ rights of conscientious objection is in the duty of objectors in good faith to refer their patients to reasonably accessible providers who are known not to object. Conscientious objection is unethical when healthcare practitioners treat patients only as means to their own spiritual ends. Practitioners who would place their own spiritual or other interests above their patients’ healthcare interests have a conflict of interest, which is unethical if not appropriately declared. [Full Text]

Dickens BM. Legal protection and limits of conscientious objection: when conscientious objection is unethical. Med Law. 2009 Mar;28(2):337-47. PubMed PMID: 19705646.

Conscientious Objectors Behind the Counter: Statutory Defenses to Tort Liability for Failure to Dispense Contraceptives

Jennifer E. Spreng

Journal of Health Law & Policy

Introduction:  The United States Food and Drug Administration’s decisions in the past decade to approve both RU-486 and Plan B have created crises of conscience for some religious pharmacists. RU-486 induces abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy without surgical intervention and Plan B is a two-pill “emergency contraceptive” regimen that may have abortifacient properties. Some religious pharmacists prefer not to dispense the drugs because their religious scruples forbid them from participating in abortions.  Some also object to dispensing daily oral contraceptives6 on the same basis.


Spreng JE. Conscientious Objectors Behind the Counter: Statutory Defenses to Tort Liability for Failure to Dispense Contraceptives. 1 St. Louis U. J. Health L. & Pol’y 337, 337-40 (2008)

Conscientious commitment

Bernard M. Dickens

The Lancet

In some regions of the world, hospital policy, negotiated with the health ministry and police, requires that a doctor who finds evidence of an unskilled abortion or abortion attempt should immediately inform police authorities and preserve the evidence. Elsewhere, religious leaders forbid male doctors from examining any part of a female patient’s body other than that being directly complained about. Can a doctor invoke a conscientious commitment to medically appropriate and timely diagnosis or care and refuse to comply with such directives?


Dickens BM. Conscientious commitment. Lancet [Internet]. 2008 Apr 12; 371(9620): 1240 – 1241

Reconciling principles and prescriptions: Do pharmacist refusal clauses strike the appropriate balance between pharmacists’ and patients’ rights?

Sarah Tomkowiak   

University of Illinois Law Review

Conclusion: When a woman and her physician decide that a prescription for contraception is in her best health interests, legal, professional, and ethical obligations should prevent a pharmacist from being able to effectively override that determination. The right of a pharmacist to abide by her moral or religious principles when faced with a prescription that goes against those principles is an important right to protect. However, this right should never be allowed to infringe on a patient’s right to access birth control, an equally important right that has significant implications for the majority of American women’s reproductive health. Pharmacist refusal clauses acknowledge pharmacists’ right to refuse at the expense of women’s right to access contraceptives, inappropriately reconciling these rights. Griswold v. Connecticut may be forty years old, but the issues debated before the Supreme Court then have risen anew today, this time behind the pharmacy counter. Following in the footsteps of the Griswold Court, we must now reaffirm that women have the right to make their own family planning decisions, including the decision to use contraception. Legislatures, pharmacy boards, pharmacies, pharmacists, and patients must work together to put the needs of patients back where they belong—as the first priority of the pharmacy profession.


Tomkowiak S. Reconciling principles and prescriptions: Do pharmacist refusal clauses strike the appropriate balance between pharmacists’ and patients’ rights? U Illinois L Rev 2007(4) 1329-1360

Achieving transparency in implementing abortion laws

Rebecca J. Cook, Joanna N. Erdman, Bernard M. Dickens

International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics

Abstract: National and international courts and tribunals are increasingly ruling that although states may aim to deter unlawful abortion by criminal penalties, they bear a parallel duty to inform physicians and patients of when abortion is lawful. The fear is that women are unjustly denied safe medical procedures to which they are legally entitled, because without such information physicians are deterred from involvement. With particular attention to the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Constitutional Court of Colombia, the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal, and the US Supreme Court, decisions are explained that show the responsibility of states to make rights to legal abortion transparent. Litigants are persuading judges to apply rights to reproductive health and human rights to require states’ explanations of when abortion is lawful, and governments are increasingly inspired to publicize regulations or guidelines on when abortion will attract neither police nor prosecutors’ scrutiny.


Cook RJ Erdman JN, Dickens BM. Achieving transparency in implementing abortion laws. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. (2007) 99, 157-161

The Ever-Expanding Health Care Conscience Clause: The Quest for Immunity in the Struggle Between Professional Duties and Moral Beliefs

Maxine M. Harrington

Florida State University Law Review

Introduction:  During the past few years, the debate over whether health care professionals should be required to provide services that conflict with their personal beliefs has focused primarily on pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions.1 According to one media account, during a sixmonth period in 2004 there were approximately 180 reports of pharmacists refusing to dispense routine or emergency oral contraceptives. 2 This controversy, however, extends beyond the pharmacy into every facet of the heath care system. . .


Harrington MM. The Ever-Expanding Health Care Conscience Clause: The Quest for Immunity in the Struggle Between Professional Duties and Moral Beliefs. 34 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 779, 816 n.237 (2007) 

Conscientious objection in medicine

Julian Savulescu

British Medical Journal

Shakespeare wrote that “Conscience is but a word cowards use, devised at first to keep the strong in awe” (Richard III V.iv.1.7). Conscience, indeed, can be an excuse for vice or invoked to avoid doing one’s duty. When the duty is a true duty, conscientious objection is wrong and immoral. When there is a grave duty, it should be illegal. A doctors’ conscience has little place in the delivery of modern medical care. What should be provided to patients is defined by the law and consideration of the just distribution of finite medical resources, which requires a reasonable conception of the patient’s good and the patient’s informed desires (box). If people are not prepared to offer legally permitted, efficient, and beneficial care to a patient because it conflicts with their values, they should not be doctors. Doctors should not offer partial medical services or partially discharge their obligations to care for their patients. . .


Savulescu J. Conscientious objection in medicine. BMJ. 2006 February 4; 332(7536): 294–297. doi:  10.1136/bmj.332.7536.294

The Fallacies of Objections to Selective Conscientious Objection

Amir Paz-Fuchs, Michael Sfard

The Fallacies of Objections to Selective Conscientious Objection

Abstract

This paper critically analyzes the theoretical and pragmatic arguments raised against the refusal of individuals to serve in a specific military campaign that they view as immoral. The Israeli Supreme Court case of Zonshein v Judge-Advocate General will serve as an axis of the discussion, as it combines two related facets: first, the Court’s decision touches upon most of the difficult issues in the field of conscientious objection. And second, the development leading up to the decision was accompanied by an exceptional clash of academics, each side summoning expert opinions in support of its claim.

Courts worldwide have accepted that a categorical distinction exists between universal and selective conscientious objection. The combination of the Zonshein decision and the accompanying academic debate presents the opportunity to reexamine the theoretical and pragmatic reasons that are offered as support for distinguishing the two ‘types’ of conscientious objection. Close scrutiny finds them wanting.


Paz-Fuchs A, Sfard M. The Fallacies of Objections to Selective Conscientious Objection. Israel Law Review, Special Issue: Refusals to Serve – Political Dissent in the Israel Defense Forces. 2002 Fall; 36(3);111 – 143. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021223700017994.