Sunday, August 13, 2006


Panel Suggests Using Inmates in Drug Trials - New York Times

Panel Suggests Using Inmates in Drug Trials - New York Times: "Until the early 1970's, about 90 percent of all pharmaceutical products were tested on prison inmates, federal officials say. But such research diminished sharply in 1974 after revelations of abuse at prisons like Holmesburg here, where inmates were paid hundreds of dollars a month to test items as varied as dandruff treatments and dioxin, and where they were exposed to radioactive, hallucinogenic and carcinogenic chemicals.
In addition to addressing the abuses at Holmesburg, the regulations were a reaction to revelations in 1972 surrounding what the government called the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, which was begun in the 1930's and lasted 40 years. In it, several hundred mostly illiterate men with syphilis in rural Alabama were left untreated, even after a cure was discovered, so that researchers could study the disease.
"What happened at Holmesburg was just as gruesome as Tuskegee, but at Holmesburg it happened smack dab in the middle of a major city, not in some backwoods in Alabama," said Allen M. Hornblum, an urban studies professor at Temple University and the author of Acres of Skin, a 1998 book about the Holmesburg research. "It just goes to show how prisons are truly distinct institutions where the walls don't just serve to keep inmates in, they also serve to keep public eyes out.""

I have to side with the opponents here. Coercion and abuses are too obviously a risk for the prisoners. When we see someone who has done something heinous, we know that they are likely to experience really bad things when they go to prison. In fact, we occasionally root for it. To think that this kind of research could actually be reviewed appropriately when the minimum of oversight can't be assured is sophomoric. I am not a prison rights type, but I don't want people to be used just because we can.

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