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INTRODUCTION The ethics of experimentation on human subjects has become the subject of much debate among medical scientists,

philosophers and religious authorities. Human experimentation in the practice of medicine is as old as the practice of medicine itself.1 The search for knowledge and for improved methods of diagnosis and treatment has been a part of the professional and scientific concerns of medicine. There is always bound to be conflicts between science and religion. This is the root of the problem with which we are faced with in this paper. The question is inherently philosophical as it concerns not merely pragmatic difficulties and their arbitration, but a genuine conflict of values involving principles of a high order. The problematic of this paper therefore is to see whether human experimentation is a good practice or not. Is it something to be encouraged or not are some of the things that will make up this paper. To be able to meet up with the demands of this paper, the views of other philosophers like Hans Jonas and a host of others would be examined in this paper and their ethical, philosophical and moral contributions examined as regards experimentation on human subjects. Because of this, we are going to divide this work into two chapters. Chapter one will bring out the whole notion of experimentation on human subjects, while chapter two will be an evaluation of experimentation on human subjects. Conclusion and a Select Bibliography will end this work.

B. ASHLEY - k. OROURKE, Health Care Ethics, The Catholic Hospital Association St. Louis, Missouri, USA 1978, 248.

CHAPTER ONE EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMAN SUBJECTS


1.1.
WHAT IS HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION

We can define human experimentation as some deliberate change of condition without foreknowledge of the results but with subsequent observation of them carried out upon living human subjects.2 There are two types of human experimentation. 1.1.1. Therapeutic Experimentation Therapeutic experimentation is carried out in order to improve the health of the research subject by prophylactic diagnosis, or therapeutic methods that depart from standard medical practice but hold out a reasonable expectation of success. If success is not predictable, experimentation is not involved3. Clearly, what begins as human experimentation may later become a standard medical practice. A surgeon who has performed operations on different kinds of patients learns and perfects himself experimentally.4 1.1.2. Non-Therapeutic Human Experimentation Non-therapeutic research or experiments is not designed to improve the health condition of the research subject; rather it seeks to gain knowledge or develop new techniques that will be beneficial for people other than the subject. In fact non-therapeutic experimentation which consists essentially in verifying a hypothesis is prohibited. This experimentation at times as in most cases is inspired by mere curiosity or by pure sadism.5
2 3

S. REISE, Ethics in Medicine, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA 1977, 249. Ibid, 249. 4 Cfr. Ibid, 250. 5 P. FLOOD, Medical Experimentation on Man, The Mercier Press, Limited, Cork Ireland 1955, 12.

1.2.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMAN SUBJECTS Human subject research experiments were recorded during vaccination trials in the 18th

century. In these early trials, physicians used themselves or their slaves as test subjects. Experiments on others were often conducted without informing the subjects of dangers associated with such experiments. A famous example of such research was the Edward Jenner experiments, where he tested smallpox vaccines on his son and neighbourhood children.6 From earliest times to our own day, medicine has been able to progress only by tentative steps and by successive experiments on living matter, most often on the human body. The history of human experimentation may also be the history of a moral problem.7 The Greeks were not unaware of it, as Platos portrait of the doctor, in the Laws, clearly shows:
The doctor... makes a profound examination of diseases in their origin and according to their development. In chatting with the patients and with his friends, he himself gains a personal knowledge of the patient and he also instructs the patient as much as possible. He imposes no prescription without having first, in some way, induced the patient to share his view of the matter; and it is then the only, while he keeps the patient docile through persuasion, that, leading him towards health, he endeavours

to accomplish his task.8 To trace the evolution of experimentation on man is to sound the praise of a medical conscience ever more and more scrupulous.9 Medicine was practised from most remote times, and the first therapeutic attempts could only have been experimental actions on man.10 Medical practice is as

old as man; but the Greeks were first to use observation and experiment in a reasoned and systematic way. According to Hippocrates, diseases can be conquered to the extent to which the constitution of the patient offers matter for observation. Human experimentation seemed
6

A. GOLISZEK, A History of Secret Programs, Medical Research, and Human Experimentation, St Martins Press, USA 2003, 34. 7 Cfr. Ibidem 36. 8 P. FLOOD, Medical Experimentation on Man, 14. 9 Cfr, Ibidem 15. 10 Cfr. Ibid 15.

incompatible with Christian morality.11 As time went on, curiosity took the form of a real epidemic of experimentation on the human body. One cannot talk of the history of experimentation on human subject without mentioning the Nazi German experimentation on human subjects with its horrors. 1.3. SOME EXAMPLES OF HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION 1.3.1. Vivisection Vivisection from Latin word vivus which means alive, and section which means cutting is defined as surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure. The term is sometimes more broadly defined as any experimentation on live animals and human beings. The term is often used by organizations opposed to animal experimentation but is rarely used by practicing scientists. Human vivisection has been perpetrated as a form of torture. Human Prisoners of war were subjected to various forms of vivisection, in many cases without anaesthesia like the Imperial Japanese Army, during the Second Sino-Japanese War and Nazi human experimentation.12

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12

P. FLOOD, Experimentation on Man, 18. D. YARRI, The Ethics of Animal Experimentation, Oxford University Press, USA 2005, 163.

CHAPTER TWO A MORAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL EVALUATION OF EPXPERIMENTATION ON HUMAN SUBJECTS 2.1. ARGUMENTS FOR EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMAN SUBJECTS Todays politicians are beginning to speak of the right to health care. Todays patient expects his illness to be accurately diagnosed and effectively treated. Brian Bliss contends that these rights and expectations can only be realised through an applied results of effective medical research.13 For him, the doctors major aim in clinical research is to increase knowledge about a particular disease and improve the management of patients suffering from it. In order to obtain the best possible treatment for our patients, we must support and sustain medical research by which its aim is achieved. Medical research therefore is right in principle.14 According to the (WMD) World Medical Association in its Declaration of Helsinki, which is a code for ethics for medical research, makes the following comments:
It is the mission of the doctor to safeguard the health of the people. His knowledge and conscience are dedicated to the fulfilment of this mission. It is therefore, essential that the results of laboratory experiments be applied to human beings to further scientific knowledge and to help suffering humanity. Clinical research therefore is mandatory.15

Claude Bernard contends that among experiments that can be tried on man, those that can only harm are forbidden, those that are innocent are permissible, and those that may do good are obligatory.16 He contends that most successful surgeries today are as a result of experiments and human subject is not an exception. Some people argue that people like prisoners, mentally retarded
13

B. BLISS- J.ALAN, Aims and Motives in Clinical Medicine, Pitman Medical Publishing Company London 1975, 90.
14 15

LTD,

Ibidem 91. Ibidem 92. 16 B. HARING, Medical Ethics, Fides Publishers INC, Notre Dame, Indiana 1973, 208.

and those condemned to death are good subjects for experimentation for the good of the society because in either case, they will till die. 2.2. ARGUMENTS AGAINST EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMAN SUBJECTS (NON-THERAPEUTIC) Experimentation on human subjects is often useful and necessary for the common good is without doubt. Many vaccines and other therapies such as smallpox and poliomyelitis and successful open heart surgery required human experimentation and the whole attests its value. However, human experimentation has greatly been abused. the day nowadays. 2.2.1. The Dignity of Human Person The human person is per se an end in its self. To use a person as a means to an end is directly contrary to the principle of Human Dignity in Community.18 There is a need to exercise an ethical conscience with respect to human and animal experimentation. In other words, the "gift of life" is the basis of the "dignity of the human person. 19 The dignity of the human person does not serve science or politics or our wishes but God alone who is our creator. In his essay, Philosophical Reflections on Experimenting With Human Subjects, Hans Jonas contends that except in cases of widespread medical emergencies, people do not have a moral or social obligation to volunteer to be subjects in medical experiments. He further argues that any appeal for volunteer subjects in medical experiments should whenever possible give priority to those who can identify with the project and offer a strong sense of commitment to
17

Pure curiosity and selfish aims has taken the order of

17

Cfr. B. ASHLEY , Health Care Ethics, 248. Cfr. Ibidem 248. 19 Cfr. B. BLISS- J.ALAN, Aims and Motives in Clinical Medicine, 104.
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its priorities.20 Bernard Haring contends that the progress for medicine, with its many manifold benefits for mankind, owes a heavy debt to experimentation and research.21 2.3. PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION (NUREMBERG CODE) 2.3.1. The Voluntary Consent of the Subject The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him/her to make an understanding and enlightened decision. Information like the nature, duration, and purpose of the experiment; the method and means by which it is to be conducted; all inconveniences and hazards reasonable to be expected; and the effects upon his health or person should be made known to the experimental subject.22 2.3.2. Prospects for Fruitful Results and Unnecessary Suffering The experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature. The experiment should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury. No experiment should be conducted where there is a prior reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur; except, perhaps, in those experiments where the experimental physicians also serve as subjects.23
20 21

B. HARING, Medical Ethics, Fides, publishers INC, Notre Dame, Indiana 1973, 208. S. REISER et alii, Ethics in Medicine, 272. 22 Cfr. Ibidem, 273. 23 E. HEALY, Medical Ethics, Loyola University Press, Chicago 1956, 59.

2.3.3. The Degree of Risk The degree of risk to be taken should never exceed that determined by the humanitarian importance of the problem to be solved by the experiment. Proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death. The experiment should be conducted only by scientifically qualified persons. During the course of the experiment the human subject should be at liberty to bring the experiment to an end if he has reached the physical or mental state where continuation of the experiment seems to him to be impossible and during the course of the experiment the scientist in charge must be prepared to terminate the experiment at any stage, if he has probable cause to believe, in the exercise of the good faith, superior skill and careful judgment required of him that a continuation of the experiment is likely to result in injury, disability, or death to the experimental subject.24 CONCLUSION In view of what I have said above, I think that certain types of medical experiments on human beings when kept within reasonably well-defined bounds, and which conform to the ethics of the medical profession, moral, and legal concepts are permissible. However, there should be nothing as experimentation on human subjects if the intension is pure curiosity. By Kangson Linus SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY MAIN SOURCE
24

Cfr. S. REISER et alii, Ethics in Medicine, 273.

FLOOD Peter,

Medical Experimentation on Man, The Mercier Press, and Limited, Cork Ireland 1955.

REISER Stanley,

Ethics in Medicine, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts, USA 1977. SECONDARY SOURCES

ASHLEY Bernard - OROURKE Kevin,

Health

Care

Ethics,

The

Catholic

Hospital

Association St. Louis, Missouri, USA 1978, 248. GOLISZEK Anthony, A History of Secret Programs, Medical Research, and Human Experimentation, St Martins Press, USA 2003. YARRI Donna, The Ethics of Animal Experimentation, Oxford University Press, USA 2005.
BLISS

Brian ALAN Johnson,

Aims and Motives in Clinical Medicine, Pitman Medical Publishing Company LTD, London 1975.

HARING

Bernard,

Medical Ethics, Fides Publishers INC, Notre Dame, Indiana 1973.

FAREY James,

The Dignity of Human Person in The Tablet no 1356.

HEALY Edwin,

Medical Ethics, Loyola University Press, Chicago, USA 1956.

Table of Contents
INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................................1 CHAPTER ONE........................................................................................................................................2 EXPERIMENTATION ON HUMAN SUBJECTS.................................................................................2

1.3. Some Examples of Human Experimentation......................................................4 1.3.1. Vivisection.........................................................................................................4 CHAPTER TWO.......................................................................................................................................5 A MORAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL EVALUATION OF EPXPERIMENTATION ON HUMAN SUBJECTS.................................................................................................................................................5 2.1. Arguments for Experimentation on Human Subjects..........................................5 2.2. Arguments Against Experimentation on Human Subjects (non-therapeutic)......6 2.2.1. The Dignity of Human Person............................................................................6 2.3. Principles Of Human Experimentation (Nuremberg Code)..................................7 2.3.1. The Voluntary Consent of the Subject................................................................7 2.3.2. Prospects for Fruitful Results and Unnecessary Suffering..................................7 2.3.3. The Degree of Risk............................................................................................8 CONCLUSION..........................................................................................................................................8 SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY.....................................................................................................................8 Table of Contents.....................................................................................................................................10

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY.................................................................................................................9