ethics commitees and our debt to Maurice Pappworth

Having written about human experimentation ethics committees and remembered Maurice Pappworth I looked at his book written in 1967 again. He was a very great and courageous man.
This was written some 12 years after eminent German physicians who had acted as wartime Nazi experimenters on Jewish captives.
The experiments he discusses on unwitting unknowing patients the young and babies, individuals with learning disabilities and prisoners can hardly be countenanced today. He carefully demolishes all logics for such experiments and this includes experiments on oneself.
Yet many everyday clinical techniques date from those times. Though in fairness the first experiments on ultrasound were conducted on a piece of butchers steak.
There can never be too much time spent in planning experiments, and explaining to the subjects if indeed they are involved .
Perhaps the question should always start, could these experiments be done on tissue isolates , preferably yeast.
I thought of having to explain to a family what went wrong which is a painful thought. Even more so for the individual and the family.
This book
Human Guinea Pigs, experimentation on man MH Pappworth Routledge and Kegan Paul 1967
is a salutary read, at times very painful and brings back memories of experiments in a nearby Professorial Medical Unit when I was a junior doctor.
So when one goes through the tedious pernickety process of an Ethics Committee be thankful.

Martin Eastwood

1 Comment

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